State moves to close Dunwoody day care after 4-month-old’s death

Amanda Harris Hickey, 45, of Dunwoody, was arrested Friday and charged with murder after an infant died at her home day care service.

Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

Amanda Harris Hickey, 45, of Dunwoody, was arrested Friday and charged with murder after an infant died at her home day care service.

In a picture posted on Facebook, Amanda Harris Hickey is seen holding a baby close to her chest and describes it as a favorite moment at work.

“Happy, dry babies with full bellies sleep so well,” another post states.

For more than 10 years, Hickey ran a licensed day care center out of her Dunwoody home, taking care of infants and toddlers. But on Monday, Hickey wasn’t able to care for the children and was in danger of losing her livelihood. The 45-year-old remained in the DeKalb County jail, three days after being charged with felony murder and cruelty to children after a 4-month-old boy in her care died, according to police.

While the baby’s death Wednesday remains under investigation, police reports state that Hickey put the infant face-down for a nap and didn’t check on him for more than 2½ hours. She was licensed to care for six children, but investigators said there were eight in her home that day.

Late Monday, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning issued an “intended order of emergency closure” for the center on Leisure Lane. Hickey has 48 hours to appeal the closure, according to a DECAL spokesman.

Though the autopsy results on the infant were pending Monday, state records and police reports provided details about an earlier inspection at the center and more about the day the boy died.

On Jan. 28, Hickey’s Little Lovey day care met the requirements to continue operating following a licensing study by DECAL, state records show. But she was cited for not completing all of the state-mandated training.

“Provider was missing seven hours of training to complete the necessary 10 hours of required training annually,” the report states.

During that inspection, which was conducted virtually due to the pandemic, Hickey met the requirement for the amount of children in her care. State law allowed her to care for six children, according to DECAL.

But on Wednesday, Hickey had eight children in her care, police and DECAL said.

According to Hickey’s arrest warrant, she placed the infant face-down in a playpen shortly after 1 p.m. and didn’t check on him again until 3:45 p.m. She told detectives she placed the child on his back, but surveillance video showed her putting the child face-down, the warrant states.

“She told (the detective) that she put him on his back in the pack and play,” her arrest warrant states. “She stated he must have rolled over. She stated she was trained to put children face up. Video shows her putting him face down.”

When she returned to the room to check on the baby, he was lying on his stomach, the police report states. Hickey told police the child’s mother had told her he had previously rolled himself over, so she wasn’t immediately concerned. Then, she realized he wasn’t responsive.

“Hickey noticed that he was not breathing, then observed vomit coming from his mouth,” the police report states.

She began CPR and called 911, and within minutes, police and paramedics arrived and continued the life-saving measures. The boy was taken to the hospital but did not survive.

Hickey also notified DECAL that the child was found unresponsive. On Thursday, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services informed DECAL that the boy had died, according to DECAL. Hickey was arrested Friday, Dunwoody police said.

On Monday, an attorney for Hickey released a statement to Channel 2 Action News about the baby’s death.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to (the family) for their untimely loss; for there is nothing more tragic than the loss of a child. Ms. Hickey is also devastated by this loss, as she opened her home and dedicated the past ten (10) years of her life to caring for young children within her community.

“In the end, we expect that Ms. Hickey will be cleared of any wrongdoing. Until then, we ask that you respect her privacy, as well as the privacy of her family.”

While Hickey remained behind bars without bond, dozens joined a fundraising effort to assist her. More than $15,000 had been raised by late Monday afternoon.

“Thank you so much for supporting Amanda and her children during this awful time,” a GoFundMe page stated.

Hickey’s next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 17.