MURRAY — A day care provider has been charged with severely abusing three toddlers in her care, all under the age of 2, dating back to 2008.
Kami Kay Tollefson, 37, was charged Monday in 3rd District Court with three counts of child abuse, a second-degree felony.
Tollefson, who runs an unlicensed day care in her house, 1199 W. Bullion St. (5620 South), is accused of physically abusing three children, ages 13 months, 16 months and 18 months.
The first incident was in June 2008. A young boy had been dropped off at Tollefson's house. When his parents returned that afternoon to pick him up, he "was pale and was groaning in pain," court documents state.
Tollefson said the boy had bumped his head after slipping on a toy car, according to court records. A doctor, however, determined the boy had suffered a lacerated pancreas as a result of "massive blunt force trauma to his abdomen." The boy underwent emergency surgery to remove part of his pancreas.
The doctor described the injury as "life threatening" and noted the child might have died if not for the immediate actions of his parents, according to the charges. He also said the injuries were not consistent with Tollefson's explanation of what had happened.
In April 2009, Murray police investigated a second case involving Tollefson. She had been watching an 18-month-old boy and called the boy's parents to inform them their son had woken from a nap with a "rash" along the right side of his body along his neck and face, according to court documents.
The parents took the boy to a pediatrician, who determined he had petechial hemorrhaging over his face, neck and collarbone area and a bruise on his temple "indicative of non-accidental trauma," court records state.
A doctor at Primary Children's Medical Center later determined the injuries "were consistent with attempted suffocation or strangulation" by someone with adult strength, the documents state.
"Both cases were taken to the district attorney's office, but there wasn't quite enough information to file against her," said Murray police detective Kenny Bass.
On Feb. 12, Shandee Miller dropped off her 13-month-old daughter, HaLee Miller, at Tollefson's house. When she picked her daughter up, she had "really big pupils" and was non-responsive. Tollefson said the infant had hit her head on the floor, according to the charges.
On the way home from Tollefson's house, HaLee vomited twice, prompting her mother to call 911.
Doctors determined HaLee had hemorrhaging in her brain and in back of her eyes, as well as retinal detachment in both eyes, "all consistent with violent rotational force being applied to (HaLee's) head," prosecutors say. Doctors also found an earlier head injury that was in the process of healing. The doctor concluded the injuries could only have been caused by "substantial force" being applied to the girl's head.
Steven and Shandee Miller told KSL-TV that doctors had told them their daughter would never see again. Today, however, she is well on her way to recovery.
"She had to relearn how to pull herself up, and then one day, she only took a couple steps. She's just had to relearn everything again," said Shandee Miller.
"I think she's a miracle baby," Steven Miller said. "She's gotta be here for a reason and doing so good."
After HaLee's injury, Murray detectives once again brought their case to the DA's office and revisited the two earlier cases, as well. On Monday, charges were filed.
Bass admitted it was difficult and frustrating that it took three children being injured before charges could be filed. Investigators, however, are glad "we were able to put together cases on all three," he said.
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