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Day care death sparks lawsuit

Brooklyn Howard

The parents of a 3-month-old infant who died after allegedly being attacked by another child at an in-home day care in rural Mitchell are suing the day care's owner.

Amy Ruml and Donald Howard, the parents of the late Brooklyn Howard, filed a lawsuit Aug. 31 against Lacey Marie Tebay. Brooklyn died June 19 while she was at a day care Tebay operated at her home at 709 W. Spruce St.

Ruml and Howard claim Tebay failed to properly care for Brooklyn, left her alone in a room with as many as seven other children and then ignored her cries when one of those other children, a 5-year-old, allegedly attacked her.

Ruml and Howard are requesting a jury trial to determine what damages they may be owed by Tebay as a result of the incident, and have also asked to be reimbursed for the cost of the lawsuit.

Exactly one month after Brooklyn's death, authorities announced no criminal charges would be filed in the case. Despite the month-long investigation, very few details of the death were released.

A detailed timeline of what Brooklyn's parents claim to have happened is included in their lawsuit filing. It says Tebay first cared for Brooklyn on May 10 and cared for her 17 times, including the day of Brooklyn's death.

On the day of the incident, the complaint says Tebay laid Brooklyn on the floor for a nap and left her and the other children alone, and at some point began watching television or using her computer in another room.

Ruml and Howard then claim Tebay spent the time from 2:30 to 3:21 p.m. conversing with Stephanie Smith, who, according to the complaint, cleans Tebay's home.

According to a police log from the day of Brooklyn's death, Mitchell police officers responded to a "death/coroner call" and a "medical emergency" in the 700 block of West Spruce Street at 3:22 p.m.

While napping, Brooklyn was "kicked, hit and stepped on" by another child, the complaint says, which caused her fatal injuries.

Though Brooklyn was crying while the attack was taking place, the complaint says, Tebay allegedly "did not respond to her cries" and as a result Brooklyn "experienced conscious pain and suffering prior to her death."

According to the complaint, Brooklyn suffered multiple skull fractures as a result of blunt force trauma to her head.

Jacob Howard, Brooklyn's brother and Donald Howard's biological son, is also named as a plaintiff in the suit, with his father acting as his legal guardian.

They are represented by lawyers Scott N. Heidepriem and Sara E. Show, of Sioux Falls-based law firm Johnson, Heidepriem and Abdallah. Heidepriem is well known in South Dakota, where he was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010.

Tebay was served with the lawsuit on Aug. 28, according to an affidavit filed Friday with the Davison County Clerk of Courts. She has 30 days to file an answer to the lawsuit.

As of Monday, a response had not been filed.