Norfolk church day-care director denied bond in infant's death
The last moments of 7-week old Dylan Cummings' life were spent in a crib kept in a windowless supply closet inside Little Eagles Day Care, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
The cribs were tightly packed "almost like an orphanage," prosecutor Jill Harris told a judge.
But attorneys for two women charged with child neglect said the baby boy's death was a tragedy due only to natural causes. They described the room where Dylan died as a nursery that was checked regularly by staffers.
"The Commonwealth is looking to blame someone," said attorney John Stepanovich. "In cases like these, there is no one to blame."
After hearing the arguments, Circuit Court Judge Karen J. Burrell denied bond for the director of the church day care center where Dylan died last year. Tammy Futrell, director of Little Eagles Day Care, remains jailed on charges of homicide and felony child neglect.
Burrell said she gave "significant weight" to evidence that Futrell had ignored inspectors' warnings of unsafe conditions at Little Eagles and at a home day care center she used to run. Burrell also cited the high legal standard to grant bond to a person charged with homicide.
Burrell allowed Futrell's daughter, Angel Hoskie, to post a $40,000 bond under the condition she not be left alone with minors, even her own two children.
A grand jury last week indicted Futrell, 47, in Dylan's death. The panel also indicted Hoskie, 27, and another day care worker, Dinnetta Feeney, 44, of felony child neglect. Feeney was released on bond last week.
Tuesday's bond hearing brought out more details of Dylan 's last day alive. He died of sudden infant death syndrome on May 25, according to court testimony.
The day care center, now closed, was affiliated with the Bethel Temple Church of Deliverance, on East Little Creek Road. Tammy Futrell is married to the church's pastor, Melvin Futrell.
Harris said Dylan died because he was allowed to sleep on his stomach and was left unsupervised for as long as 2-1/2 hours.
"No one was in that room when Dylan died," Harris said.
Inspectors found several violations during visits after Dylan 's death, Harris said. The day care's staff failed to meet the requirements to have three employees trained in first aid and CPR present at all times, she said.
A church maintenance worker tried to perform CPR on Dylan Cummings, Harris said.
Rene Old, licensing inspector for the state Department of Social Services, testified that she found numerous violations at Little Eagles when she visited after the death.
The nursery was two rooms away from the main day care center, Old said. It was hot and stuffy, had no windows and no door to the outside, she said. Fire marshal s had labeled the room a utility closet, she said.
Old said she also found that the facility had one worker for every 10 babies, less than the required ratio of one worker for every four babies.
Harris also said that before Futrell operated the church facility, she ran a day care from her home. Futrell's home day care center was cited by state inspectors for failing to properly supervise infants and having unsafe conditions, Harris said.
She described Little Eagles as a lucrative business that avoided regulation by attaching itself to a church. Religious organizations may be exempt from some state licensing requirements and are not routinely inspected.
Attorneys for Futrell and Hoskie said that their clients loved children.
Several dozen friends, family members and parishioners also showed support for the Futrell family. The Cummings family was also present.
Melvin Futrell testified that he became pastor at Bethel Temple Church of Deliverance in 2005.
Little Eagles cared for 70 to 80 children every day, he said. It was authorized to handle up to 98 children, he said.
Melvin Futrell said the day care shut down after Dylan 's death and tried to fix the problems found by inspectors.
The facility reopened for at few weeks, he said, but then shut down voluntarily in August.
He urged the judge to release his wife and said she is "a wonderful, loving mother."
Bonita Stokes testified that she took her child to Little Eagles for two years, until it closed. If they reopen, she said, "I'll be the first in line."
Barry Taylor, Hoskie's attorney, said his client "cares for the children as though they are her own."
Stepanovich said both Futrell and Hoskie had certified training in first aid and CPR. Workers checked on the babies regularly, he said.
Futrell and Hoskie are scheduled to go to trial in April. No trial date has been set for Feeney.