Deputies arrested an Orlando elementary school teacher in the death of a 20-month-old boy earlier this month after an investigation found she forgot the toddler in her car and left him there for more than seven hours while she was at work.
Dougkindra Wallace, 34, was arrested Monday on charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child and neglect of a child in Jace Leslie’s death, an Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said.
Detectives said Wallace is a third grade teacher at Rolling Hills Elementary School in Pine Hills. Shari Bobinski, a spokeswoman for Orange County Public Schools, confirmed Wallace taught at Rolling Hills and said she was currently on administrative leave.
Wallace regularly drove Jace to and from daycare on days his mother worked, an arrest warrant said. Jace’s mother paid her $80 monthly for the arrangement, which had been in place for 10 months at the time of Jace’s death.
On Sept. 11, Wallace picked Jace up from his home around 7:30 a.m., and Jace rode next to Wallace’s son in the back seat, the warrant said. Wallace dropped her son off at his babysitter’s house 10 minutes later, before making a phone call and driving to work at the elementary school.
She left Jace in the car while getting her temperature checked at the school’s front office, leaving her car running, then parked in the teacher’s parking lot and shut the car off with Jace still inside, deputies said.
She exited her car around 7:55 a.m. and did not return until 3:21 p.m., the warrant said. She drove to Jace’s daycare on the 5000 block of Indian Hill Road in west Orange County to pick him up, not realizing she had never dropped him off and he had been in the car all day, the warrant said.
Wallace arrived at the daycare around 3:40 and found Jace dead, still buckled into his rear-facing car seat. Neighbors said they heard a woman screaming near the daycare and saw her running from the car before she fell to the ground near the home.
“As soon as I heard that, I said, ‘That’s a mother whose kid died,’” neighbor Franklin Parker said.
National Weather Service data shows temperatures hovered around 90 degrees that day. Detectives noted the heat index was around 105 degrees.
Investigators said Wallace was “likely distracted” by her phone conversation while driving, causing her to forget to drop Jace off.
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