No charges against staffer in boy’s death

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Parker Berry

There isn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges against a paraeducator in a toddler’s death in Waterbury Center early this year, says Washington County State’s Attorney Scott Williams.

In February, Parker Berry, 3, died after wandering away from a group at Elephant in the Field Daycare.

Staff members realized the boy was missing when his parents arrived to pick him up.

Parker was found in a partly frozen stream near the day care and was taken to Central Vermont Medical Center, then to the University of Vermont Medical Center. He died about 30 hours after he was found in the brook.

An autopsy found that the cause of death was drowning.

After reviewing the circumstances, Williams said he “determined that criminal charges are not called for” against the 28-year-old paraeducator who was caring for the boy at the time. Authorities did not disclose the name of the paraeducator.

The Vermont State Police investigated Parker’s death and handed the information over to the Washington County state’s attorney’s office.

“We put extensive law enforcement resources into this matter,” Williams said in a statement. “A little boy died, and we take that very, very seriously.

“However, after conducting interviews with Parker’s family, staff, medical staff and others involved both directly and indirectly, I have determined that there is insufficient basis for criminal charges against Parker’s paraeducator,” Williams said.

He said his office will not comment further because of other “collateral” investigations.

While no charges will be filed against the paraeducator, authorities are still looking at the role of Elephant in the Field in the child’s death.

The Vermont Department for Children and Families suspended the day care center’s license immediately after the incident, and the license is still suspended, said Reeva Murphy, the department’s deputy commissioner. The division’s investigation was put on hold during the criminal probe.

She said her office was checking with Williams to ensure the agency can proceed with its investigation on whether the day care center should be allowed to resume operations.

“Our investigation remains open, but the provider is closed until we are able to finish up, which may be as early as (this) week,” Murphy said.

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