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Day-care workers in O'Fallon, Mo., who left girl outside for four hours are charged

Day-care workers in O'Fallon, Mo., who left girl outside for four hours are charged

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O'FALLON, Mo.  •  Two employees of an O'Fallon day care were charged late Wednesday after they allegedly left a 2-year-old girl outside in below-freezing temperatures for more than four hours.

The employees — Erica Ann Newton, 34, of the 600 block of Homerun Drive in O'Fallon, and Tara Jean Branden, 28, of the first block of Gary Glen Drive in St. Peters — are each facing a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child.

According to court documents, the women worked at Bright Star Academy, 864 Homefield Boulevard. Newton and Branden were in charge of 16 children and at 10:20 a.m. Dec. 24, they took the class outside to play on the playground.

The 2-year-old girl was left outside and unattended until she was discovered by her foster father when he came to pick her up. He found her at 2:57 p.m., lying face down in a fetal position on the playground, police said.

The girl was cold to the touch and lethargic. Temperatures were between 28 and 35 degrees that day, court records said.

The girl was treated at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital for hypothermia.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services suspended the license for the day care three days later.

According to their paperwork, the women counted 16 children before they went outside and only 15 when they came back in, but thought they had miscounted. There was no written attendance at the day care that day because it was Christmas Eve.

A call to the phone number listed for the day care went unanswered Wednesday. St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar said he believes  the day care is not operating.

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