Dejoynay Mariah Ferguson, a 19-year-old daycare center employee, has been charged with first-degree murder after smothering a four-month-old female infant in her care on September 5. Ferguson is accused of telling investigators she suffocated the baby because she was being “fussy” and wouldn’t stop crying. The infant’s name has not been released to protect the family’s privacy.
The incident occurred at the Little People Child Development Center, on the 3800 block of Wrangle Hill Rd. in Bear, Delaware. The daycare center offers programs for children six week to 13 years of age.
Ferguson was arrested on September 6 and arraigned at the Justice of the Peace Court Thursday. The teen is being held on $1 million cash bond and is in custody at the Dolores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution.
Delaware State Police Master Corporal Michael Austin told WWSB his agency would do everything possible to “investigate and successfully prosecute this case.”
“Yesterday, a family’s world was changed forever. As a parent personally, I’m heartbroken for them,” Austin said, adding, “As a spokesperson for Delaware State Police, I can ensure you that everyone within this agency feels the same way.”
Here’s what you need to know about Dejoynay Ferguson.
1. Video Surveillance Captured Dejoynay Ferguson Suffocating the Baby, Authorities Say
Video surveillance showed the chilling events that led to the infant’s death. These are the accusations: That the video shows the teen picking the infant up from the floor by the front of her shirt and placing her on a changing table. Ferguson later is accused of telling investigators that she picked the baby up by the shirt because the child was “fussy” and wouldn’t stop crying.
Ferguson then allegedly put on latex gloves and covered the baby’s mouth and nose with her hands for over three minutes until the baby until she was unresponsive. Ferguson then placed the infant back in her crib, the accusations say.
Austin made it clear the infant’s death was not accidental. He told reporters that Ferguson “knowingly and intentionally restricted the breathing of the infant by placing her hands over the nose and mouth of the victim.”
2. Ferguson Is Accused of Waiting 20 Minutes Before Telling the Daycare Center’s Owner the Baby was Unresponsive
After waiting 20 minutes, Ferguson informed the daycare center’s owner that the baby was unresponsive, authorities say. A call to 911 was placed at 10:35 a.m., and Delaware State troopers and emergency medical services responded. The baby was rushed to Christiana Hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
The arrest affidavit noted that the statement Ferguson gave to police didn’t sync up with what was on the video. After further questioning, Ferguson did tell detectives that the baby was crying, it’s alleged.
3. The Incident Happened in the Daycare Center’s Infant Room
According to The Little People Daycare Center’s website, the Infant Room only offers four slots in its infant program and has a four-to-one caretaker/child ratio “Our staff is highly trained; with no less than three years of experience caring for infants.”
The website describes the Infant Room as having “the feel of an in-home nursery,” and is decorated with theme-based characters. “Your infant will spend his/her day in a stimulating, yet warm environment,” it says. For security, the center’s site says cameras are strategically placed in each classroom, common areas, the playground, the parking lot and in the front of the facility.
According to the daycare center’s Infant Room webpage, babies receive their own individual lesson plan and are exposed to music, storytime, small and large muscle development, sensory development and sign language.” Parents receive daily written reports that record their child’s feeding time, diaper changes, nap time and activities.
4. Dejoynay Ferguson Was Licensed & Background-Checked Before She Was Hired
According to state documents, Ferguson, who is from Newcastle, is a certified early childhood assistant teacher. She was hired in January 2019 by the daycare center and had passed a background check, WWSB reported.
Little is known about Ferguson other than she attended Howard High School and took part in the school’s Legal Support Services career program. In 2017, the Delaware News Journal reported that Dejoynay Ferguson helped to coordinate her high school’s “Operation: Be Safe Initiative,” a public safety fair that taught students about fire evacuation, fingerprinting and crime scene investigation.
5. The Center’s Owner Asked a Reporter, “Do You Know What That’s Like to Have a Baby Die in Your Hands?”
The Little People Child Development Center was shut down on September 6 and the Delaware Office of Childcare Licensing has indefinitely suspended the facility’s license. The center, which has three locations in Delaware, is owned by Janice Palmer, her husband, and son.
“I’ve never had someone die,” Janice Palmer told the Delaware News Journal the following day. “Do you know what that’s like? Do you know what that’s like to have a baby die in your hands?” According to Palmer, she and her family are fully cooperating with investigators, who have asked her not to talk about Dejoynay Ferguson or the case.
“We don’t want anything, not one single thing, that’s going to jeopardize these folks from doing what they need to do so that this person is brought to justice. Period.”
The Little People Child Development Center had no history of noncompliance issues and all employees had been certified and screened as mandated by the State of Delaware. The facility had passed state inspection in May 2019. Facility injuries were reported in 2016, 2018 and 2019 but the state did not provide further details.