RUSSELLVILLE | The former owner and four former employees of the now-closed Tiny Tigers Pre-K in Red Bay have been indicted by a Franklin County grand jury on charges related to the March 9 death of Autumn Rose Wells, an infant who was in the facility’s care. Two of the former employees now face manslaughter charges.
Red Bay Police were in the process late Wednesday of arresting those charged. The charges in the indictments include:
- Angelene Chamblee: Child Care Act Violation (six counts); Forgery 2nd Degree; Forgery 2nd Degree
- Payton Nicole Gann: Manslaughter; False Reporting to Law Enforcement
- Madison Jade McCalpin: Manslaughter; False Reporting to Law Enforcement
- Teia Kay Gann: Tampering with a Witness
- Hannah Grace Letson: Tampering with Physical Evidence; Tampering with a Witness
Chamblee was the owner of the daycare, which was ordered closed on March 16 following an inspection by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (ADHR). Chamblee surrendered the daycare’s license after ADHR officials cited numerous deficiencies at the facility, including unsafe sleeping practices for young children, improper staffing of classrooms, and false statements given to ADHR officials regarding events surrounding the Wells, who was just four months old at the time of her death.
Wells was pronounced dead on March 9 after she was found unresponsive by workers at the daycare. According to the Red Bay Police Department, Chamblee and an employee took Wells to Red Bay Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The hospital contacted the Red Bay Police Department and Wells’ body was sent to the Department of Forensic Sciences in Huntsville for an autopsy. Gann was arrested on March 11 by Red Bay Police Department investigator Kyle Gober on the misdemeanor charge of false reporting to law enforcement.
The ADHR letter in March cited a “lack of supervision by the staff and an inappropriate sleeping environment” resulting in Wells’ death. Additionally, the letter gave insight into the charges of false reporting to Law Enforcement when it detailed the lie that was first told to ADHR about how Wells was placed to sleep. A staff member initially said Wells was placed in a swing, but later told Red Bay Police Wells was, in fact, placed on her stomach to sleep – in violation of state standards.
State Performance Standards require a child to be placed on its back to sleep in a crib with a tight-fitted sheet and nothing else. The letter stated that the sleeping position Wells was in and the blanket cover would have made it difficult for the only teacher in the classroom – another violation – to tell if the child was under duress, such as having difficulty breathing.
Evidence reviewed by the grand jury led to the additional charge of manslaughter against Gann. Wednesday’s arrests are the first in the matter since Gann was initially charged by Red Bay Police. Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing was expected to provide more details on the case and the indictments later this week.
Joel Wells, Autumn’s grandfather, speaking on behalf of the Wells family, told The Red Bay News the family struggles with Autumn’s death and can only hope this doesn’t happen to another family.
“Autumn Rose Wells was an incredible gift from God,” Wells said in a statement to The News. “We miss her indescribably every day. We pray this never happens again and hopefully that through her life another mother will be spared the agony of burying a precious child. We also want to express our overwhelming gratitude for the dedicated efforts of the Red Bay Police Department throughout this investigation.”
Red Bay Police Chief Janna Jackson said everything surrounding the case has been difficult given Wells’ age but commended her officers for how they have handled the case.
“It was a very tragic event but our investigator, Sgt. Kyle Gober, put a lot of effort and detail into the investigation and presented it to the grand jury,” Jackson said. “Now we have the indictments on that, and I commend him on a thorough investigation. And our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Autumn Wells’ family.”