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Roy day care provider charged with child abuse homicide

Published: Wednesday, April 9 2014 5:53 p.m. MDT

ROY — A former Utah Division of Child and Family Services employee who operated a day care center out of her Roy home has been charged with child abuse homicide in the February death of an 8-month-old child under her care.

Tisha Lynn Morley, 33, was arrested Tuesday by Roy police on the first-degree felony charge and booked into the Weber County Jail.

Morley was operating Tots & Tykes Daycare, 2563 W. 3900 South, on Feb. 19 when an 8-month-old child and his 3-year-old brother were left in her care, according to Roy police officer Bryce Weir.

When the boys' father arrived to pick the children up later in the day, the younger boy was cold to the touch and would not wake up, Weir said. The infant was taken to the emergency room, where a doctor diagnosed a skull fracture.

The boy was then flown to Primary Children's Hospital, where further examination showed he had suffered a skull fracture and "trauma to the brain from shaking and impact-inflicted trauma," Weir said.

"The trauma was classified as non-accidental," he said.

The boy died Feb. 28 and the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office ruled his death a homicide caused by head injuries, investigators said.

"In spite of the victim’s death, Tisha continued to provide day care to other children even though her day care license had been suspended," Weir said, noting that another child in Morley's care suffered a broken leg on March 27.

Tom Hudachko, spokesman for the Utah Department of Health, said it's not uncommon for parents to continue taking their children to a day care facility that has lost its state license for one reason or another.

"The parents are often times mad at us (for closing a day care)," Hudachko said. "They've developed a relationship with a particular provider. They trust a particular provider and often times they just don't see things our way."

A health department employee hand delivered a letter to Morley on March 10, notifying her that her license was being revoked and her day care was being closed "because of the hospitalization and subsequent death of a child who had spent the day" in her care.

The licensing specialist remained at Morley's home while she called parents to tell them the center was being closed immediately and they needed to pick up their children, Hudachko said. Morley was also required to notify the parents of any children who weren't at the day care that day, he said.

The state made one additional visit to Morley's home after her license was revoked to confirm that she was not watching more kids than allowed under state law.

"The requirements are pretty clear cut in the state," Hudachko said. "The basic rule is that if you are providing care for more than four children for four or more hours per day, you need to obtain a license from the state."

Hudachko noted that state regulators hadn't found any health or safety concerns during prior visits to Morley's home. She had been a licensed day care provider since July 2011.

Morley left her job with DCFS one month after her license was issued, according to division spokeswoman Liz Sollis. From February 2007 to August 2011, she was a social services worker with the agency, serving families in their homes in an effort to avoid the removal of children, Sollis said.

Authorities are still investigating how a 3-year-old boy's leg was broken while he was in Morley's care, Weir said. He added that the entire case has had an impact on the officers, too.

"I have a 10-month-old daughter myself," Weir said. "These are tough cases for the officers investigating and working them. They really kind of hit close to home."

Morley was released from jail after posting $100,000 bail. Her first court appearance is set for April 15.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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