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Franklin ADA gives details of indictments in death of infant at Red Bay daycare

Two vehicles were parked outside Tiny Tigers Pre-K late Wednesday, March 16, after the facility's license was suspended and the facility ordered closed by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. News photo/Jason Collum

Autumn Rose Wells

RED BAY | Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Barksdale provided more details this week to The Red Bay News surrounding the charges being faced by five individual regarding the death of an infant at a daycare here in March.

Red Bay Police on June 1 began arresting the former owner, three former employees, and the parent of a former employee of Tiny Tigers Pre-K in Red Bay after indictments were handed down by a Franklin County grand jury in the death of Autumn Rose Wells. Two of the former employees now face manslaughter charges.

“The grand jury returned manslaughter indictments against Payton Gann and Madison McCalpin, alleging that they recklessly caused the death of Autumn Wells as a result of her being placed on her stomach on a ‘Boppy pillow’ for an extended period of time,” Barksdale said. “Additional counts for false reporting were returned against these two individuals in light of allegations that they had initially and falsely advised officers that Autumn had instead been placed and later found unresponsive in a swing.”

Other indictments allege an attempted coverup in the aftermath of Wells’ death.

“Indictments were returned by the same grand jury against Teia Gann and Hannah Letson alleging that they had made attempts to induce false statements from witnesses,” Barksdale said, “and against day care owner Angelene Chamblee, alleging that employee suitability letters had been altered and that there had occurred various violations of Department of Human Resources regulations including the failure to maintain the required child-to-staff ratio for the under 24 months classroom and the utilization of unqualified staff in said classroom.”

Barksdale lauded the work of the Red Bay Police Department and the Department of Human Resources in their investigations.

“The Red Bay Police Department and Department of Human Resources did a phenomenal job investigating the death of Autumn Wells and the extensive reports, records, witness statements, reenactments and other evidence collected by investigators with these agencies was presented to the May 2022 Franklin County grand jury,” Barksdale said.

Wells was just four months old when she died. The news of the indictments and arrests brought only a little comfort to Wells family. 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.”

The daycare 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. 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.

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