Laclede County daycare operator sentenced to shock treatment in toddler death case

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 3:32 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 5, 2023 at 5:38 PM CDT
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LEBANON, Mo. (KY3) - A woman has been sentenced after being charged with a toddler’s death at an unlicensed daycare in Laclede County.

Naomi Johnson was sentenced in court on Monday to 120 days of jail time and on probation for four years.

On June 3, 2020, emergency crews rushed 1-year-old Kimber McDowell to a hospital, where she died. Authorities began investigating the child’s caretaker, Johnson.

Court documents show Kimber was swaddled at the time she was put down for a nap. The State Technical Assistance Team Consultant says infants should not be swaddled after two months of age.

According to court documents, the cause of death was “probable positional asphyxia.”

“It’s hard to describe it’s just been a long road coming,” said Alexander McDowell when he describes what the sentencing day feels like.

Both McDowell and Janelle Higbee, Kimber’s mom say they make sure to honor their daughter’s memory.

“We can’t let every time we mentioned Kimber’s name be a tragedy. We have to honor her as much as we can,” said McDowell.

According to investigators, Johnson told officers she put the child to bed for a nap. Investigators say her attention focused on the several other children she was watching before discovering Kimber wasn’t breathing.

Higbee says they have to be okay.

“Our children are the only reason that we’re okay,” said Higbee.

The child’s parents say they knew Johnson wasn’t a licensed childcare provider.

“I think when it comes to being able to provide care for your children, for families like us, that don’t make more than $40, 50,000 a year in the waiting list that is over a year long. Then whenever you have families like me and Janelle, where we have to share our children, there is no daycare that will take my kids half the time that I have with my ex to be there with our children that are here full time with us,” said McDowell.

He went on to say he wishes there was more accessibility to childcare.

“There’s no style of daycare babysitting that works for us that that is governed through the city and actually has to go through sanctions. There are so many people that have to resort to in-home, unlicensed childcare. If childcare was made more accessible for people like that, and maybe businesses that are making these millions of dollars could provide that for their employees, this wouldn’t happen so often,” said McDowell.

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