TWIN FALLS — A Kimberly woman who ran a day care center out of her home was bound over to district court Friday morning after witnesses described finding a toddler sleeping outside her house late at night.
Brandi Olsen, 28, faces one felony count of injury to a child.
Sunset Child Care’s license was revoked in August by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare after police found a 2-year-old sleeping alone outside on Sunset Lane and eight children left unsupervised in a house filled with trash and safety hazards. Five of those children, including the toddler found outside, were day care clients.
Kimberly police officers who responded to the Sunset Lane house the night of Aug. 2 described finding a messy home full of “clutter” and marked by a “stench” from overflowing garbage and mold-filled fish tanks.
“It wasn’t the worst house I’ve seen,” officer Alex Arrington said, “but it was definitely in the top ten.”
But the injury to a child charge didn’t stem from the messiness of the house, prosecutor Kiel Willmore noted. The real issue at hand, Willmore argued, was the fact that the child had been able to get out of the house undetected — and that Olsen was in her bedroom with the door locked, listening to music on her headphones, unaware of what was happening outside her room at the time.
A neighbor who discovered the boy sleeping in Olsen’s driveway at about 10:45 that night said that when she first spotted the 2-year-old, she thought he was simply a pile of clothes. It wasn’t until she took a closer look that she realized the pile was actually a child.
“He looked afraid, but not to the point where he was going to go anywhere, find anybody, or go inside,” the neighbor said.
After the woman and her husband found the boy in the driveway, she said she knocked on the door of the house — which was slightly ajar — while her husband called the police. There was no answer, the woman said, but she could hear another baby crying inside the house.
When police arrived at the house, the officers who testified said, they called out loudly several times before walking through the house. It wasn’t until they had searched every other room that Olsen emerged from her locked bedroom. She said she had put the toddler in a playpen before going to her room and didn’t realize he had gotten out of the house.
Defense attorney Samuel Beus argued that the case was not worthy of a felony charge, as “any parent who puts a 3-year-old into a playpen is going to assume they’re going to stay” in the playpen.
“If this is the standard we’re putting parents in these days, what’s a parent to do with a [child who has gone to bed]?” Beus said. “Do they sit outside their room all night long awake just in case someone moves?”
Willmore said he “strongly disagreed” with the notion that most parents “just put a child in their playpen and walk off and do whatever they want.” Furthermore, Willmore pointed out, Olsen had blocked out all noise with her headphones to the point where she could not hear police officers yelling inside the house.
“Is that every parent in Twin Falls County?” Willmore said. “No.”