LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. - A Lehigh Acres daycare owner is behind bars, accused of leaving children unattended in a small swimming pool on June 24th. One of those children, two-year-old Christian Byrd drowned. Thursday, 42-year-old Melissa Smith was charged with Aggravated Manslaughter and three counts of Child Neglect.
We spoke with her attorney right after she turned herself in. "She's devastated," Robert Harris of Robert Harris Law Firm said. "She feels horrible for the family."
Melissa Smith was watching seven children under the age of five June 24th... At Smith Family Daycare, which she operated out of her home.
Smith told investigators she put two-year-old Christian Byrd, a three year old, and two four year olds in a small, portable pool in the backyard. Then, she went inside with the other children.
She said she used the restroom. Five to seven minutes later, one of the children told her, "Christian's dead."
Investigators say Smith ran Byrd to a neighbor's house, leaving the other children behind. "She is CPR certified," Harris said. "In the heat of the moment, she panicked and relied on a neighbor who is a Marine to hopefully do the CPR while she frantically called 911."
Byrd was pronounced dead at the hospital. "She's not grieving because of her situation, because she's in jail, she's grieving because there was a death of a child on her watch and no one feels worse about it than she does," Harris said.
Sharleen Bosman's child went to Smith's daycare. "I'm glad she's finally been arrested," Bosman said. "It's been almost a month. We haven't heard anything and the fact that she's finally being charged and she's behind bars, is where I believe she should be."
Bosman said she'd had concerns before Byrd's death, seeing other children playing unattended when she'd arrived to pick up her son. "People trust her with their kids and she didn't watch them and this happened," Bosman said. "Justice. Christian needs to be able to be laid at rest and this obviously needs to be done."
Smith's first appearance in court is scheduled for Friday morning.