LIVE UPDATES: Fraser told daughter to hide medication after baby’s overdose death at day care
Marian Fraser charged in child’s overdose death
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Former Waco day care owner Marian Fraser asked her daughter to hide medication from a state inspector four days after a 4-month-old in Fraser’s care died from an overdose of an over-the-counter antihistamine, Fraser’s daughter testified Monday.
Fraser, 59, is on trial in Waco’s 19th State District Court on a murder charge in the March 4, 2013, death of Clara Felton, who died from a toxic amount of diphenhydramine, an ingredient in Benadryl, while the baby was at Fraser’s Spoiled Rotten day care at her home on Hilltop Drive.
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Monday was the fourth day of testimony in Fraser’s retrial. She was convicted of murder in the baby’s death in 2015 and sentenced to 50 years in prison before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction because of improper jury instructions and awarded Fraser a new trial. She remains free on bond.
In testimony Monday, Fraser’s daughter, Logan Hayes, acknowledged while under questioning from prosecutor Will Hix that she was being placed in an awkward position as a witness for the prosecution. Hix wanted to ask Hayes, who was a college student at the time, about text messages between her and her mother on March 8, 2013, the day Hayes came back home to Waco for spring break.
In the text messages, which Hix and prosecutor Tara Avants enlarged for the jury’s behalf, Hayes told Fraser that a day care licensing inspector from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services was sitting in their driveway when she got home from Tarleton State University. Fraser asked Hayes to go in the house and get the medicine out of the cabinet and to hide it in a closet in Hayes’ bedroom.
She told Hix she did as her mother instructed without thinking anything about it. Hix noted reports from Hayes’ interview with former Waco police Detective Mike Alston, the lead investigator in Clara’s death. She acknowledged that she said “next question” when Alston asked her about hiding the medication.
Under questioning from Lettie Martinez, a Fort Worth attorney who is representing Hayes’ mother with attorneys Christy Jack and Alex Thornton, Hayes said she was a young college student and was unaccustomed to being interviewed by police. She agreed with Martinez, who asked her if she helped her mother hide the medication because Fraser didn’t want to get “dinged” with a licensing violation for not complying with agency rules governing signed parental consent forms for administering medicine to the children.
Hayes said she loved growing up in a house filled with babies, adding she helped her mother at the day care “as soon as I was old enough to throw out a diaper.” She said her mother operated the day care for almost 24 years with only a few minor citations and that some of the city’s most prominent families lined up for Fraser to care for their children, with some even planning their pregnancies to coincide with openings at Fraser’s day care.
Hayes said Jasper, their family dog, suffered from allergies, and the Frasers kept generic Benadryl in the kitchen cabinet for their pet. She said they crushed up pills and put them in his food to keep him from scratching himself until he bled.
Prosecutors previously showed the jury a picture of a blue pill crusher and a set of scales that Fraser kept in a cabinet above where Fraser stored the baby formula. They allege that Fraser gave children in her care Benadryl or another product containing diphenhydramine so the children would sleep soundly.
Fraser testified at her first trial that she never gave a child medication without parental consent. However, Clara’s parents, testified that they did not give Clara Benadryl and did not give Fraser consent to do so.
Hix reminded Hayes that she testified at Fraser’s first trial that they gave Jasper antihistamines hidden in cheese or hot dogs, not crushed up in his food.
“Was your memory better back then or now, many years later?” Hix asked.
Hayes explained that after Jasper figured out their tactics with the cheese or hot dogs, they had to devise another plan to get him to take the medicine.
Calling her explanation “convenient,” Hix wondered when she spoke last to her mother’s defense team and asked if she would lie for her mother. Hayes said no, prompting Hix to reply that she seemed to have no problem hiding evidence for her, referring to the medicine.
In other testimony, two of Fraser’s former employees told jurors that they have worked at other day cares and the children at Spoiled Rotten slept more consistently than those at other facilities.
Katrina Filz worked at Spoiled Rotted for about six years and said Fraser always prepared the bottles for the babies, which she said were already prepared when she arrived in the morning. She said children there got into routines and that Fraser provided structure for the kids, which is what the young parents wanted and appreciated.
She said she doesn’t remember now, but she apparently told Detective Alston that the babies were on a schedule and they slept well because it was quiet and dark, with gentle music playing. She said Fraser didn’t go into the baby room often when they cried, allowing them instead to “self-soothe.”
Clara had thrown up and was unresponsive when Fraser found her in her playpen at about 3 p.m. the day she died.
Molly Debault, an attorney, testified Monday that her son was 8 weeks old when he started at Spoiled Rotten in 2012. She said he was born with a normal head but developed flat-head syndrome on the back of his head because he slept on his back and didn’t move much. She said she was never able to replicate the sleep schedule her son experienced at day care while he was home with her on weekends.
When her daughter went there, she needed a speech therapist and arranged for one to come to Spoiled Rotten to see her daughter. She said the therapist came to the day care twice before Fraser asked her not to return because the sessions were too disruptive, Debault said. She said she also tried to give her young daughter swim lessons in the afternoon but she had to discontinue them because she was “too lethargic” after her afternoon nap.
“Having a lethargic child around a swimming pool is not the best combination,” Debault said.
Prosecution testimony is set to resume Tuesday morning.
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