IOWA CITY — Like most any 7 month old, Sawyer Springsteen liked to get water all over the bathroom when given a bath and roll around on the living room floor and tease his parents with his tiny toes.
When he was found unresponsive last fall at a home day care and later died at the hospital, it was due to sudden infant death syndrome, a relative said.
Thursday, six months after the boy’s Oct. 18 death, police said there is more to this tragic story: The day care provider drank up to a dozen cans of beer in the hours before opening the house that morning to take care of her little charges.
Wendy Dee Young, 49, who court records show was a day care provider at 509 Third Ave. in Iowa City, was arrested Thursday and faces one count of neglect or abandonment of a dependent person, a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 year in prison.
Iowa City police said Young still had alcohol in her system eight hours after she had opened at 6:30 a.m. that day.
Authorities said she was a day care provider for children from 7 months to 3 years old. State records do not show her as a licensed or registered operator, which would trigger inspections. However, providers who look after five or fewer children are not required to be either registered or licensed.
Jail records show that Young remained Thursday evening in the Johnson County Jail on $10,000 bail.
No one answered the front door of the home Thursday. But a neighbor across the street said she found the police account hard to believe.
The neighbor, Rebecca Painton, said Young had run the day care out of the home for 14 years.
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Since moving into her home four years ago, Painton said she’s never seen a child there neglected. The police report, she believed, was “sad and misleading.”
“She’s a very, very good, happy, lovable girl,” Painton said.
Young would go to the grocery store each night for the day care kids the next day, she said for instance. A few of the surrounding neighbors and Young are close, Painton said, and support her.
“It’s been a hard day,” Painton said. “If there’s a bond, we’re going to bond her out.”
Sawyer’s father, reached Thursday, declined at the time to be interviewed.
The boy’s grandfather, Dan Watson of Keota, said Sawyer had died because of SIDS. He was not aware an arrest had been made in connection with the death until contacted by a reporter, though he did know police had tested the provider for alcohol.
Sawyer Reign Springsteen was born March 7, 2017, in Iowa City, according to an online obituary from Powell Funeral Home in Keota.
“He loved to go on walks, watch his favorite movie, ‘Angry Birds,’ and splash water all over the bathroom when he took a bath,” it read. “He liked to roll around the entire living room and pinch Mom and Dad with his toes.”
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