Woman pleads guilty to infant’s death at illegal daycare

Donna Pilcher

Daycare workers have been criminally charged after a baby died at the illegally-operated Mama Shell’s Daycare in Hood River, The Oregonian/OregonLive first reported Wednesday.

Four-month old Cyrus Macioroski, “a precious little boy who had bright blue eyes and was full of smiles,” passed away at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital on May 15, according to his obituary.

“Cyrus’s unexpected death leaves behind much heartache with his parents, Jason and Bobbi Macioroski, his older brother, Atlas, and family,” reads his obituary.

The cause of Cyrus’ death has not been made public, but indictments against the daycare operator, Rochelle R. Jones, 51, her wife, Debra L. Jones, 61, and a third woman, Donna J. Pilcher, 62, claim that the three women left him unattended for “a period of time that was likely to endanger (his) health and welfare,” The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

The three women have each been charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, first-degree criminal mistreatment and five counts of operating an unlicensed childcare agency. All three indictments were filed Sept. 13.

The daycare was operating out of the Jones’ residence in the 1100 block of Red Tail Loop in Hood River at the time of Cyrus’ death. Since then, the house has been put up for sale and the Jones’ reportedly moved to Chicago.

Pilcher spoke to The Oregonian/OregonLive and said that she while she knew about the baby’s death, she did not know about the charges against her prior to being contacted by a reporter. She told the reporter that she planned to turn herself in to the Hood River County Sheriff.

Pilcher was arrested and booked at NORCOR on Tuesday, Oct. 2, where she is currently being held. Her plea hearing is scheduled for Oct. 9.

Active warrants are still out for the arrests of Rochelle and Debra Jones.

A fourth woman, child care licensing compliance specialist Julia A. Smith, 59, The Dalles, allegedly helped Rochelle, described in the indictment as “her friend,” maintain Mama Shell’s after the Oregon Office of Child Care revoked the business’ license in April 2017.

Smith is charged with official misconduct for failing to enforce state childcare regulations, as well as operating a child care facility without certification from May to December 2017.

She was placed on leave the day of her indictment, but is still listed as a full-time state employee with the Department of Education (which oversees the Office of Child Care), The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Smith’s level of involvement in the oversight of Mama Shell’s is unknown.

“We are concerned by these developments, are deeply committed to child safety and have started our own personal investigation into this matter,” wrote Department of Education spokesperson Marc Siegel in an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Mama Shell’s did hold a Registered Family Child Care Home License for the care of 10 children from Sept. 20, 2012, to Sept. 20, 2014, and a Certified Family Child Care Home License with a 16-child capacity from July 22, 2013, until the license was placed on emergency suspension on Nov. 1, 2017.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that regulators received a complaint in May 2015 “accusing Mama Shell’s of failing to adequately supervise children and improperly punishing kids.” Investigation into those allegations, but “‘concerning info’ from the Department of Human Services prompted regulators to immediately suspend Mama Shell’s that November (2016).”

The daycare’s Facebook page, last updated Oct. 9, 2012, shows it operating out of a rented Hood River residence that the business vacated in late November 2017. That house was sold to a new owner in February.

Regulators apparently rediscovered the daycare operation in January of this year.

Debra Jones was cited on Jan. 12 for providing unlicensed childcare to as many as six children “in age from infants to young school-agers” in the Jones’ family home on Jan. 12 following a complaint.

The citation does not list the Jones’ address at the time of the inspection.

Both Debra and Rochelle were cited for running illegal facilities, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported, but only the details of Debra’s citation were available on the Oregon Department of Education Early Learning Division’s website.

Inspectors noted that Debra was working her “other job” and that two unnamed adults were caring for the children at the time of inspection. “I reviewed the rules and discussed options with those adults regarding your (Jones’) ability to continue providing child care,” the inspection reads. “I also made it clear that parents would need to be notified immediately that care could no longer be provided for these families.”

Hood River Police Detective Anthony Frasier said that he could not comment until the case has been adjudicated.

Deputy District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen, who is prosecuting the case, said that she will not comment until after the case has made its way through the court system.

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