Deaths prompt crack down on unlicensed day care operators

Two children were killed in a deadly fire at an unlicensed daycare in Lynchburg in September of 2014. (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP & WSLS 10) - Virginia is cracking down on operators of illegally operated home day cares after a string of child deaths in unlicensed care.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill this week that would make it a felony punishable with up to 10 years in prison if a child is hurt or killed in a day care that's not properly licensed. Current law limits prosecutors to bringing misdemeanor charges in such cases.

The bill was pushed by the family of Joseph Allen, a toddler who died after a fire broke out at his Midlothian home day care in 2014. The woman who ran that day care was charged with a misdemeanor for operating a day care without a license.

Allen's family says they hope the law will prevent such tragedies in the future.

A similar tragedy happened on September 19, 2014 in Lynchburg. Two children, 21-month-old Kayden Rain Curtis and 9-month-old Dakota Aubrey Penn-Williams, died from injuries sustained in a fire at an unlicensed day care on Ramsgate Lane. Doris Lee Thompson pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully operating an unlicensed day care facility, a misdemeanor that at the time carried a maximum sentence of one year in prison. In February 2015, Thompson was sentenced to one year in prison, with all time suspended.