Lauren Landgrebe, of Upper Southampton, is accused in the death of baby Victoria Watson whom she was watching — along with seven other children — in what authorities allege was an illegal unlicensed home daycare.
A 48-year-old Upper Southampton woman is accused in the death of an 11-month-old Warrington baby earlier this year, who authorities say was left unattended in a car seat for at least two hours at illegal home daycare.
Upper Southampton police allege that instead of watching a napping Victoria Watson, Lauren Landgrebe spent the afternoon at her backyard pool with two of the eight children that she was paid to watch on Aug. 27 at her Rosebud Road home, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Wednesday.
Landgrebe told police she was making calls and accessing social media and exchanging “numerous” text messages with her husband, while Victoria was left on the dining room table with a rolled-up hand towel on her shoulder to prop up a bottle so she could drink, court documents allege.
Landgrebe allegedly told police she propped the bottle up because Victoria could not hold the bottle.
Landgrebe claimed that she opened the rear door at least once to see if she heard Victoria wake up, but that she only physically checked on the girl once during the two hours that she was outside, according to police.
When she did check, it was to take a photo of the baby with her cellphone camera about 20 minutes before her husband returned from work and found the unresponsive infant in the car seat sitting on the dining room table, according to the affidavit. Landgrebe did not tell police about the picture until the day after Victoria died, the affidavit said.
“Landgrebe could not provide a reason as to why she did not disclose this information during the first interviews,” according to court documents.
After she took the photo of the infant, Landgrebe allegedly sent it to several people on the social media app Snapchat with a caption that said the infant “had a rough night.” She allegedly admitted deleting the photo while her husband was on the phone with 911 and performing CPR on Victoria.
Victoria was rushed to a nearby hospital, but she was pronounced dead roughly an hour later, authorities said. An autopsy listed the cause of death as asphyxia due to strangulation from the improperly positioned car seat restraints, according to police.
A mark around the infant’s neck and further investigation revealed it was consistent with the chest strap from the car seat, the affidavit said.
The photo Landgrebe took of the girl also showed the leg straps on the seat were not fastened, only the chest strap; it appeared that the infant slid “very low” in the seat and the chest strap was up around her neck resulting in her death, according to a court document.
Court documents identified the infant as “V.W.,” but Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services previously confirmed an 11-month-old girl named Victoria Watson died on Aug. 27. The agency is leading a county team charged with investigating the circumstances surrounding the death, a process known as an Act 33 review.
During initial police interviews, Landgrebe admitted she was operating a home-based daycare and had been “for years.” The day Victoria died she was watching eight children who are not her family members, ranging in age from 11 months to 7 years old, police said.
Pennsylvania regulations require child care providers to obtain state certification to watch more than three children on a regular basis who are not relatives.
Police also learned that Landgrebe charged parents $60 to $80 a week or $10 an hour to watch children, but that she never reported the extra income from the daycare to the government.
Lauren Landgrebe was receiving Social Security disability payments for 10 years, the affidavit said.
Landgrebe was arraigned on multiple felony charges including involuntary manslaughter, operating a facility without a license, theft, and misdemeanor tampering with evidence on Wednesday and sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $500,000 bail.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, which oversees child care providers in the state, confirmed that Landgrebe was not certified to provide family home child care. The state sent child care inspectors to the Rosebud Road home on Aug. 30. No children were at the home the day of the inspection, DHS spokeswoman said.
State inspectors found “high-risk” conditions in the home, including toxic substances and a swimming pool accessible to children, according to a cease and desist letter sent to Landgrebe on Sept. 4. Landgrebe also had no mandatory certificate of occupancy from Upper Southampton.
The circumstances surrounding the death bear a striking resemblance to the June 2017 death of Alivia Sawicki. The 19-month-old girl suffocated to death after her babysitter partially strapped her in a car seat for a nap and left her unattended in a second-floor bedroom for at least an hour.
A subsequent autopsy determined the car seat chest buckle pressed into Alivia’s neck when she tried to get out of the seat.
The woman paid to watch the toddler, Jaimee Gorman, was watching nine children under age 16, plus her own kids, at her Fourth Avenue home in Croydon on the day Alivia died.
A subsequent county child welfare investigation found Gorman regularly watched as many as 13 children at times without proper state licensing.
But it wasn’t until after this news organization brought to light the missed state violations at Gorman’s home daycare in an extensive investigation last year that Gorman was charged with operating a facility without a license — nine months after Alivia’s death.
The felony charge was later downgraded to endangering the welfare of children; the District Attorney’s Office said it made the change to prevent Gorman from being licensed as a childcare provider in the future.
She pleaded guilty to the charge last year and was sentenced to three to 23 months in Bucks County prison; she served her sentence under house arrest, though she was required to spend eight hours a week incarcerated at Bucks County prison.
Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub on Wednesday noted that the Landgrebe case has “distinct” differences than the Gorman case that merited an involuntary manslaughter charge.
He said that Victoria was “much younger” than Alivia; Landgrebe left the infant propped up in a car seat with a bottle, which he described as an “inherently dangerous” situation, and the cellphone photo that Landgrebe took indicates the baby was in distress before her husband found her after returning home.