Justice for Jersi: Perry family outraged after no indictment in infant’s daycare death

One local family is asking for justice after the death of their infant on her first day of daycare.
Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 10:14 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 11:22 AM EST
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PERRY, Fla. (WCTV) - One local family is asking for justice after the death of their infant on her first day of daycare.

The family spoke out for the first time Tuesday night.

“She honestly had just started smiling and giggling,” said Martasha Robinson, Jersi McNight’s mother.

The family of the 2-month-old infant never imagined the photos from the summer of 2021 would be her last.

”I just assumed she was in good care,” Robinson said.

The past four months have brought a tidal wave of emotions for the family, and they’re still angry.

Child abuse, child neglect,” Robinson said.

“It’s neglect all day,” Jonathan McKnight, the father, said.

Jersi’s mom says she dropped her off for her first day at Hugger Family Daycare, a state-licensed facility inside a Perry home, on Aug. 9, 2021.

“We were recommended by tons of people,” Robinson said.

Robinson said goodbye to her daughter just before 8 a.m. Around 3:30 p.m., she got a hysterical call from the mother of another child there.

“My heart stopped,” Robinson said.

Something had happened to one of the children.

“I’m getting closer and closer to the scene and there’s an ambulance, and detectives and police lights,” Robinson said.

She didn’t realize how serious it was until an officer greeted her at the door. Later she learned what state records insinuate: Jersi had allegedly been left unattended on a changing table and somehow scooted off, landing in a nearby mop bucket where the 2-month-old girl drowned.

“That alone — leaving her — is just negligence,” Robinson said.

Recently a grand jury determined not to indict the daycare owner on criminal charges in a 10-8 decision, which has left the entire family reeling.

”I’m still in shock. Hoping I heard it wrong. Maybe I just heard it wrong,” said Katrina Cook, the baby’s aunt.

”That’s just like taking a bucket of water and throwing it out in the yard, and when it’s dried up, it’s over with. My grandbaby was way more than a bucket of water,” said Walter Bishop, the baby’s great-grandfather.

The state attorney’s office had no comment on the case.

While the family may never know what exactly happened, what they do know is that Jersi is no longer with them, and the last place she was alive was inside that daycare.

The Perry Police Department declined to be interviewed for this story and our requests for a copy of the incident report. PPD says despite that grand jury decision, the case is still open, under investigation and they are even considering new evidence.

State records show the daycare had been cited as “non-compliant” on not one but two different occasions, including a violation reported about five weeks before Jersi’s death. That violation was for having seven children under 3 years old, which is more than allowed by Florida law.

Mom and dad said they weren’t aware of the violations until it was too late.

“I need some answers. I need some answers,” Robinson said.

WCTV reached out to the daycare owner in person and over the phone. Whoever answered the phone hung up on our reporter.

Meanwhile, Jersi’s family waits, remembering their baby.

“I need some answers. I need some answers,” McKnight said. “She won’t be forgotten. Justice will be served.”

The family says they have also hired an attorney for a civil suit. They are still waiting on the headstone and slab to be placed on Jersi’s grave.

You can search Florida daycares and view their inspection histories on the Department of Children and Families website.

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