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People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- October 11, 2004
- Vol. 62
- No. 15
Killed in His Crib
At a New York City Daycare, Toddlers Pile Toys on 6-Month-Old Matthew Perilli, Crushing Him. How Could This Happen?
The tragedy has cast a pall over New York City's vast network of daycare centers—and the bureaucracy intended to keep them safe. About an hour before Matthew died, city inspectors had visited Devlin Daycare, run by Heather Zlotshewer, to investigate charges the facility was unlicensed. According to health commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden, while there, they reported hearing "a lot of noise" from an upstairs bedroom where the baby had been left in a crib. They sent her up to investigate, but didn't go themselves since they believed they lacked the authority. Only later did Zlotshewer, 34, discover Matthew unconscious and—without calling 911—take him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. "We will never know whether we could have prevented this tragedy," says commissioner Frieden, "but we could have done our job much better."
Few would dispute that. Because of an antiquated reporting system, the Perillis did not know if there were previous complaints against Zlotshewer, who neighbors say looked after as many as eight young children alone (state regulations require one adult for every two infants in daycare). Frieden has ordered an overhaul of the city's daycare program, and the Queens district attorney is weighing criminal charges—but all that is too little, too late for the Perillis. "Every day Vincent and Maria struggle to make sense of their loss," said their lawyer in a statement, "and wonder how they will come to terms with it. They only know that he will forever be missed."
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