PORTALES – Maliyah Jones was only 22 months old, but she’d already developed an irresistible personality.
“She was the sweetest, happiest, brightest little girl,” said Janet Bradley, the toddler’s cousin.
“She was very talkative for her age, very smart, she remembered you, just so sweet.”
Maliyah died Tuesday and another young child was in critical condition Wednesday after both were left in a hot vehicle outside an in-home day care center for about 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon.
The day care’s owner, Mary E. Taylor, 62, and her daughter, Sandi Taylor, 31, are charged with child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and child abuse resulting in death, police officials said. Both were being held at the Roosevelt County Detention Center on Wednesday awaiting a bond hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today.
Family members said Maliyah died at Roosevelt General Hospital.
The other child, identified in court records as Aubrianna Loya, under the age of 3, was transferred to a Lubbock-area hospital. “We don’t know if she’ll make it or not,” Assistant District Attorney Brian Stover said late Tuesday night. She was reported in critical condition Wednesday morning.
A Portales police news release said officers responded to the day care at 3:25 p.m. Tuesday for a report of two children having seizures. They found two children not breathing and began lifesaving attempts.
Stover said police believe Sandi Taylor took six children to a local park, while Mary Taylor stayed at the home with four other children. When Sandi Taylor returned to the Taylor Tots day care, she took four children inside and left two in the vehicle.
“The worker was intending to go back and get (the two left behind), but she got distracted by something – she doesn’t know what – and then began to fill out some paperwork,” Stover said. “They put the children down for naps and did not notice the two missing at the time. Later, they realized it and found the children and began to attempt lifesaving procedures, and called 911.”
Portales’ temperatures were in the mid-90s on Tuesday, the National Weather Service reported.
Maliyah’s cousin Bradley said Erika Tafoya, Maliyah’s mother, spent several weeks researching day care facilities before deciding Taylor Tots could be trusted with her daughter’s well-being.
Tafoya moved to Portales from Tucumcari last fall, Bradley said, to take a job as a dental assistant.
“No one expects to drop a child off and go to work and get called and told your child will be fighting for her life and then pass away … . This is heartbreaking for all of us.”
Mark Jones of Canyon, the brother of Sandi Taylor, said Wednesday morning the day care is closed and will not reopen.
“We feel the loss, too,” he said. “We’re mourning, too. It’s just a horrible accident and I don’t know where we go from here.”
Bradley, who lives in Dixon, Calif., said she saw Maliyah and Tafoya two weeks ago at a family reunion in Tucumcari.
“She had a baby doll that she just loved. She was such a happy little kid.”
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the home day care had been commended in a past inspection by state officials, according to public documents.
But the state Children, Youth and Families Department has now revoked the license of the day care.
An inspection conducted in August 2016 found the day care was in compliance, with an inspector noting “keep up the great work!” in the written report available online. The day care has been licensed since 2013.
“This is a heartbreaking tragedy and our hearts go out to the families of these children. There’s no excuse for leaving children unattended in hot cars. The providers have both been arrested and we are working closely with law enforcement on this case,” Henry Varela, spokesman for the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department, told AP.
The Kids and Cars safety organization reports an average of 37 children die each year in hot cars in the United States. Most are age 3 and under.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.