Daycare Owner Charged In Infant's Death Arrested Again

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WACO - The owner of a Waco daycare where a 4-month-old girl died from an overdose of an over-the-counter allergy drug was back in custody Monday on warrants stemming from two additional charges.

The two warrants charging child endangerment were served on Marian Bergman Fraser, 49, just after 3 p.m. Monday, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.

She was released from jail Monday evening after posting bonds totaling $6,000.

The new charges involve two infants for whom Fraser cared, a 1-year-old and a 7-month-old, both of whom tested positive for the allergy drug diphenhydramine, the generic name for Benadryl, Swanton said.

Authorities think the two infants were given the diphenhydramine while at Fraser’s home daycare, Swanton said.

The affidavits submitted for the new warrants say the parents of the two infants had hair samples taken in July at a lab in Austin and that a lab in Deer Park confirmed the presence of diphenhydramine.

The parents told investigators that they had never given the drug to their children and had never given anyone else permission to administer it, either.

A source close to the investigation said last week that parents of some of the children for whom Fraser cared sought independent tests that showed as many as seven had been given the drug.

Fraser, the owner of the Spoiled Rotten home daycare center at 1725 Hilltop Dr. in Waco, which is licensed to care for as many as 12 children, according to online state records, was initially named in a warrant stemming from the death of the 4-month-old granddaughter of McLennan County Judge Scott Felton.

She surrendered last week, was charged with injury to a child (causing death) and was later freed on $25,000 bond.

She was named in the two new warrants the next day and had been the subject of a police search since then.

The infant, Clara Marguerite Felton, died at a local hospital on March 4 after she was found unresponsive and not breathing in her crib at the home daycare.

An autopsy report issued at the end of May says she died “as the result of toxic effects of diphenhydramine,” the generic name for the over-the-counter allergy drug Benadryl.

The report listed the manner of death as undetermined.

“Detectives believe the child died due to an overdose of Benadryl given by the daycare's owner to keep the baby asleep during nap-time,” Swanton said last week.

On the day the infant died, Fraser and one employee were at the center, according to an arrest warrant affidavit released last Thursday.

The girl was fed a bottle at around 11:30 a.m. and was put in a crib for a nap between noon and 12:30 p.m., the affidavit said.

She was found unresponsive at around 2:50 p.m., the affidavit said.

A medical examiner told investigators that the infant “had to have been given the diphenhydramine while in the care of the daycare she was attending” or the effects would have occurred earlier, the affidavit said.

Fraser told an investigator she would have managed and administered any medication that a parent brought to the daycare, the affidavit said.

The infant’s parents told the investigator they had never given their daughter diphenhydramine or any product that contains it, the affidavit said.

Fraser told the investigator she prepared bottles for the babies either the night before or in the morning, the affidavit said.

The investigator determined that Fraser “has a sleep schedule that she likes for the children to be on” and that the children typically napped for 2 ½ to 3 hours a day, the affidavit said.

On April 30 the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services cited the daycare for administering medication without authorization.

“During the inspection it was found a caregiver was administering over the counter medication to a child in care without having the written authorization from the parent,” the department’s child care information website said.

The website said the deficiency was corrected before a May 15 deadline.

Her attorney issued a statement last Wednesday in which he said, “Anytime an infant dies, it is a tragedy, but Ms. Fraser had absolutely nothing to do with the death of this child.”

“This allegation has surrounded Ms. Fraser since it has happened. We’re looking forward to being able to clear her name.”

The daycare, which opened in November 1996, is still licensed, but a review process is underway, a Texas Family and Protective Services spokeswoman said Thursday.

A lawyer for the Felton family says he will file civil lawsuit in the case after the criminal proceedings are completed.