Fourteen-month-old Tyla died at a daycare on Chicago’s West Side during a state safety inspection.
As the ABC7 I-Team discovers ongoing childcare at the home, Tyla’s mom is still searching for answers.
“Every day I think about her, from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep, I think about her,” said Tanesha Oatman, Tyla’s mom.
At the end of what seemed like a normal day in August 2013, Oatman got a phone call from daycare saying her little girl Tyla wasn’t breathing. The mother rushed to the hospital.
“I just cried and, asked her not to leave me, but she was already gone,” Oatman said.
Three months before Tyla’s death, Family and Friends Day Care had been cited by state investigators for having more children at the daycare than their license allowed.
The day Tyla died, DFCS inspectors showed up at the home unannounced to check child limits – and the daycare had one too many kids that day – but according to a state report, Tyla was hidden in a downstairs bedroom where DCFS inspectors didn’t notice her.
“She put her in the room to hide her so she wouldn’t get closed down,” Oatman said.
“Can you imagine someone hiding your daughter and then leaving her alone unsupervised for two and a half hours and she dies?” said Brian Thomas, Oatman’s lawyer.
Now, two years later, Oatman says she’s learned that childcare operations restarted at the shut-down daycare – her friends even snapping these pictures of the daycare van picking kids up from their elementary school.
So the I-Team launched an investigation. Surveillance video shows a car pulling up to the West Side home. A man gets out with a child, walks up the front steps, and after a few minutes of waiting, hands him off and drives away.
Another afternoon, our cameras record a child playing in the front window.
ABC7’s Chuck Goudie: “My name’s Chuck Goudie, I’m with ABC7.”
The daycare owner’s husband said she wasn’t home, so we showed him the dropoff video.
Man: “My wife does not operate a daycare since 2013.”
Goudie: “But this was recently.”
Man: “Maybe but my daughter, my daughter Sharon Almondtine, she takes care of three kids.”
Goudie: “She takes care of three kids, at this location?”
Man: “Yes. We’re not going to do anything against the law, we went through hell when these things happened in 2013.”
Goudie: “If it was so bad, why would your other daughter still run a daycare out of here?”
Man: “Well, she’s a whole different person.”
Goudie: “But it’s the same place.”
He invited us in to show us this wall covered with pictures of children he says they used to care for.
Goudie: “She closed the daycare and left these pictures up?”
Man: “Oh yeah, this is our memorial wall, or we call it wall of fame, this is our wall of fame.”
Goudie: “Is there a picture of Tyla Carter on here?”
Man: “No. No…”
We found the daycare owner, Sharon Trull-Yussuff, at her new business – a restaurant on Chicago’s West Side.
Goudie: “Your husband says that your daughter runs the daycare business now, is that correct?”
Trull-Yussuff: “Yes, my daughter is definitely starting to run a daycare.”
Goudie: “You don’t help her with that business?”
Trull-Yussuff: “No, baby, I don’t have time to leave here.”
We showed her the pictures of her van near the local charter elementary school.
“I’m not saying we don’t pick up kids, but I mean yeah, they help out, if a parent’s car breaks down, you do what you got to do to help the parent. You know?” she said.
She says they weren’t hiding Tyla in the locked room in 2013 – she says the baby just wasn’t feeling well and needed a place to rest.
Goudie: “You could have said there’s another child in that room.”
Trull-Yussuff : “Of course, of course, of course, of course I could have said that.”
Goudie: “Why didn’t you say that?”
Trull-Yussuff: “At that moment, life just sometimes, you just don’t say things sometimes.”
“I just hope that this doesn’t happen to another mother, I mean, to get a call and, just to know that you’re not going to see you baby anymore,” Oatman said.
Oatman settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the daycare without admitting wrong doing, and the medical examiner never determined Tyla’s cause of death.
State officials say in response to complaints that Trull-Yussuff was still operating in 2014, they gave her a cease and desist order and referred her case to the state’s attorney’s office. They also say that her daughter’s application is still pending.