On Saturday, what would have been Leonardo Sanchez’s second birthday, his family will not have the party they had planned.
“He was a cute bundle of joy,” Sanchez said to Salt Lake City’s Fox 13. “He brought a lot of love.”
Sanchez left Leonardo at West Jordan Child Center on Sept. 8. It would mark the last moment she saw her son alive. Around noon, the toddler was playing with other children at the center — not unusual for a boy who, according to his mother, was always the life of the party.
He crept beneath a bean bag chair at the day-care center to hide, according to West Jordan police who later reviewed security camera footage from that day. An employee of the center, seemingly unaware of Leonardo’s whereabouts, then sat on top of the chair.
Why the employee did not notice Leonardo, or the child’s apparent absence from the room, is unclear.
“I’m just confused,” Sanchez said to NBC affiliate KSL. “I’m so confused on how you don’t know where my kid is. How do you not feel him? How do you not hear him scream?”
She said that police told her that, for several minutes, the employee sat on the chair and read to other children. Sgt. Joe Monson, with the West Jordan police, called the incident a tragic accident. Police say Leonardo was under the chair for up to 15 minutes before the day-care center noticed he was missing. He suffocated beneath the chair and was discovered unconscious.
Responders attempted to resuscitate the toddler at the day care, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. He was pronounced dead at Salt Lake City’s Primary Children’s Hospital later that night.
On Friday, Dan Sanchez, the boy’s father, told KUTV that the day-care needed to change its practices and be held accountable.
“We regret deeply the tragic death of a young toddler at our day care facility. No words adequately describe the depth of the sorrow we feel. And, of course, we do not pretend to understand how devastating this is for the family,” West Jordan Child Center said in a statement Friday through its attorney Barry Johnson.
As Johnson told KSL: “We know the family well, we grieve with them, and we pray that God will provide them the comfort and peace they inevitably will need.”
The day-care center had two violations in the previous five years, according to a spokesman for the Utah Department of Health’s child-care licensing program; in one instance, children were left unsupervised.
As of Friday, no charges had been filed against the unnamed employee. Tom Hudachko, with the Utah health department, told The Washington Post early Tuesday that a health inspector was still collecting information for her report.
This post has been updated.