Wood County daycare faces lawsuit over death of toddler

By Lawrence Smith | Nov 19, 2012

PARKERSBURG – The owners of a Wood County daycare are denying they are responsible for the death of toddler in their care.

Lester and Linda Rockhold are named as co-defendants in a wrongful death suit filed by Shawna Wise. In her complaint filed in Wood Circuit Court on Sept. 13, Wise, 29 and of Parkersburg, alleges her four-year-old daughter, Mercedes, died two weeks earlier after prolonged exposure to heat while left unattended in the Rockhold’s car.

According to the suit, Lester, 64, picked Shawna and Mercedes up the morning of Aug. 30 to take Shawna first to WVU-Parkersburg, then Mercedes to Lynn’s Little Wonders Daycare on Dempsie Avenue After dropping her off at WVU-Parkersburg about 9:10 a.m., Lester departed with Mercedes to the daycare.

After arrival, Wise alleges Lester left Mercedes in the car for the remainder of the day that topped 89 degrees. By the time she was discovered in the car around 5 p.m., the suit says Mercedes “had already sustained fatal injuries.”

According to her death certificate, Mercedes’ cause of death was presumed sepsis, an illness in which the body has a severe response to bacteria or other germs that causes blood pressure to drop and results in shock and acute pyelonephritis, a bacteria infection in the kidneys. Her death was ruled accidental.

In their answers filed Oct. 3, the Rockholds individually and on behalf of Lynn’s Little Wonders denied any wrongdoing. Though they admit Mercedes was found in the car that afternoon, she was there only a short time, they say.

According to the Rockholds, Lester, also known as Kenneth, did pick-up Shawna and take her to WVU-P. However, they maintain he dropped her off “closer to 9:20-9:25.”

After stopping for fuel, the Rockholds say Kenneth arrived at the daycare around 10 a.m. They aver that “at no time did he see or hear the child” that morning.

They were not alarmed by Mercedes' absence that morning, the Rockholds say, because she “was sick the day prior.”

The Rockholds admit they received a call from Shawna about 5:20 p.m. inquiring as to Mercedes' whereabouts. After being told Mercedes was not there, Wise inquired if she was in the car where the Rockholds say, “That’s when Mercedes was found.”

The Rockholds add that “[a]ll involved in this horrible and senseless ordeal are left to wonder what really happened.” Following trial, the Rockholds say they are confident they will be absolved of any responsibility in Mercedes’ death.

“There are several things that we have found very odd about that day given time to think about the shock and numbness has ease,” they say. “I guess those thought’s [sic] will have to be addressed in court, but we are fully convinced the truth will come out.”

In her suit, Wise seeks unspecified damages, interest, attorneys fees and courts costs. She is represented by Vienna attorney Todd Wiseman.

The case is assigned to Judge Robert A. Waters.

Wood Circuit Court, case number 12-C-404

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