Louie Rosella : Jan 11, 2011
Last Wednesday was supposed to be Duy-An Nguyen's last day at daycare.
It ended up being the last day anyone would ever see her awake and full of life.
On Friday, the 14-month-old Mississauga girl died at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto after being taken off life support. She had suffered “severe head trauma,” after being violently shaken, according to family members.
"This has been so sad and devastating for the entire family, especially the parents," said the girl's uncle, Johnson Nguyen. "My sister is dying inside."
Emotion prevented Dan Nguyen, a cousin, from continuing on after beginning, "when you have to bury your own little child..."
The baby’s death came two days after she was found unconscious and unresponsive at a Mississauga home. The Asta Dr. duplex, in the Cawthra Rd./QEW area, belongs to April Luckese, 35, who also operates an unlicenced daycare, April’s Daycare, out of the home.
Today, one day before the toddler is to be buried, Luckese, a married mother of two, appeared in Brampton court charged with second-degree murder in the girl's death.
She was remanded into protective custody by Justice of the Peace Hilda Weiss and will return to court Jan. 21, possibly for a bail hearing.
Luckese’s lawyer, Bruce Daley, said he was concerned for Luckese’s safety and requested his client be placed in segregation while in custody.
“When a person is in custody, quite often on a charge like this, other inmates are not particularly kind,” he said. “So I wanted to be as protective as the system would allow.
“At the moment, she's presumed to be innocent and she ought not be put in any physical jeopardy whatsoever.”
Luckese was initially charged with aggravated assault endangering a life and released on $15,000 bail. On Friday, she was arrested again and charged with murder.
The Nguyens had planned that Wednesday — the day Duy-An was injured — would be her last in Luckese's care, the uncle said, adding the family had made other daycare arrangements. She had only been there for two days.
Meanwhile, outside Luckese's home, someone taped a teddy bear to a tree in the front yard, along with a red sign that reads: “Every Canadian mother is heartbroken. Du-Yan (sic) Nguyen R.I.P.”
Johnson Nguyen said his sister, An, and her husband, Loc Nguyen, were paranoid about leaving their child in someone else's care. The couple approached April’s Daycare only after An’s maternity leave expired and she returned to work selling hearing aids, Nguyen said.
But after using Luckese’s services for just two days, An Nguyen received permission to start bringing her child to work, her brother explained.
“She was so excited, because she knows that she can take her along (to work now),” he said. “But she never got that chance.”
Duy-An was already unconscious at about 4:30 p.m. last Wednesday when Trevor Doyle arrived at Luckese’s home to pick up his two-year-old son from April’s Daycare.
He recalled a “weeping” Luckese coming down the stairs cradling Nguyen. She told him the baby wouldn’t wake up.
“She turned the baby to me so I could see the baby’s face,” Doyle said, adding he didn’t see any visible signs of injury. “I (held) the arm and could feel a very slight pulse.”
Doyle said he demanded someone call 9-1-1.
Within minutes, paramedics arrived. Shortly after entering the home, a paramedic came “sprinting” out with the baby in his arms, according to Doyle.
The child's mother arrived shortly after, he said, and spoke with police before climbing inside the ambulance to be with her daughter.
Doyle said he then went back to the front door, where Luckese appeared.
“She repeated that she was sorry. She said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’” Doyle said, adding he didn't know what she was apologizing for.
Peel Regional Police Cst. Wayne Patterson said an autopsy has been completed, but police won't reveal the cause of death.
However, family members have stated investigators told them the girl was violently shaken prior to her death.
Police sources say they upgraded the charge to murder due to Luckese's position as a child caregiver and, they allege, her knowledge of the potentially fatal consequences of Shaken Baby Syndrome.