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The criminal charges brought last year against a 20-year-old woman prosecutors say killed 4-month old Isabella Talton at the Little People Child Development Center in Bear were changed from murder in the first degree to murder by abuse or neglect.
Prosecutors also added dozens of counts of child abuse charges against the woman, Dejoynay Ferguson of New Castle, after police said an investigation indicated she had harmed four children aged between 1 and 15 months old, in addition to Isabella, at the day care center.
The abuse occurred last year between July 16 and Sept. 5, the day infant Isabella died from an apparent suffocation, according to a press statement published by the Delaware State Police on Monday evening.
The state police statement did not indicate whether the new charge of murder by abuse or neglect is in the first or second degree.
An official at the Delaware Department Department of Justice did not immediately respond Monday to a request for a copy of the new indictment against Ferguson.
Arrested last year, Ferguson remains in the state's custody at Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution, according to police.
According to previous court documents, surveillance cameras at the day care had recorded Ferguson during her shift on Sept. 5. They show her picking up the 4-month-old by the front of her shirt and placing the baby on a changing table, according to the documents.
Ferguson, who was wearing latex gloves, could then be seen putting her hands on the child's face for more than three minutes, the documents said. When she removed her hands, the baby was "unresponsive and motionless."
She then took the child and placed her in a crib, police said.
"After approximately 20 minutes Ferguson advised the owner of the facility that the victim was unresponsive at which time a call was made to 911," Delaware State Police Master Cpl. Michael Austin said last year in a statement.
Ferguson's initial story to police was different from details showed in the surveillance video, according to court documents. After she later sat down with investigators, Ferguson explained she grabbed the child by the shirt because the baby had become "fussy" and wouldn't stop crying, according to prosecutors.
The death caused outrage among many in Delaware and a temporary closure of the day care, located at 3843 Wrangle Hill Road.
Following the closure, day care owner Janice Palmer mournfully described how she had held baby Isabella as she was dying.
"I worked on this baby," said Palmer, who owns the day care facility along with her husband and son. They also own locations in New Castle and Christiana.
In May, the baby's parents sued the day care, claiming it was negligent in allowing the then-19-year-old Ferguson to take care of infants unsupervised, and arguing the facility failed to protect their daughter.
Attorney Timothy Lengkeek filed the suit in New Castle County Superior Court on behalf of Cadell Talton and Amanda Livingston.
The suit also alleged the facility did not have "appropriate staff with adequate credentials, qualifications, competence and experience" and did not "properly supervise, manage, oversee and ensure safety for the children."