JOHNSTON, Iowa – The cause of death for a child who died while under the care of a Johnston woman at an unlicensed daycare has been determined as accidental traumatic asphyxia.
Thursday, the Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the cause of death for 17-month-old Tucker Schneider. He died February 17th, just a few days after emergency crews were called about an unresponsive child at 47-year-old Trina Mazza’s Johnston home.
Traumatic asphyxia occurs when external pressure is exerted on the chest cavity preventing respiration. It can happen if there is a heavy weight on the chest or by becoming tightly wedged in a narrow space.
Mazza was caring for seven children at her unlicensed in-home daycare on the date of the incident, February 15th. She is charged with child endangerment resulting in death and operating an unlicensed daycare in the case.
Court documents identify the victim as T. S. and say Mazza, “willfully deprived the child of the necessary supervision appropriate to the child’s age when the Defendant was reasonably able to make the necessary provisions, and which deprivation substantially harmed the child’s physical, mental and/or emotional health, resulting in death.”
Mazza is scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 2nd.
Trina Mazza and her husband Michael Mazza are also facing several charges in a separate case for allegedly stealing money from Michael’s elderly mother. They are charged with four counts each of dependent adult abuse, first-degree theft, and forgery.
The alleged theft happened between August and November of 2018 and more than $163,000 was taken from the victim’s accounts.
A July 8th trial is scheduled in that case.
JOHNSTON, Iowa — Police say after a month-long investigation of interviewing witnesses, gathering evidence and informal conversations with the state medical examiner’s office, they have enough evidence to believe that Trina Mazza was not providing the amount of care needed for an 18-month-old child who died after being found unresponsive at her unlicensed Johnston daycare.
She is now charged with child endangerment causing death, but the Johnston Police Department is not saying what kind of care was allegedly lacking.
“It’s not that we want to withhold information because we want to keep it secret, it’s that we want to make sure that the trial process is pristine. If we go this route and end up in a jury that we get a good jury, that we get witnesses that don’t know what other witnesses said. We want to make sure that process is as pristine as possible,” said Johnston Police Lt. Tyler Tompkins.
The unlicensed daycare meant DHS did not have oversight or could make inspections. The caveat is that unlicensed daycares are supposed to have no more than five children in their care. DHS received complaints in 2011 and 2017 that Mazza’s daycare was overcrowded. They sent letters on both occasions alerting Mazza that doing so was a simple misdemeanor. They forwarded the complaints to the Polk County Attorney’s Office which does have jurisdiction. The Polk County Attorney’s Office declined to comment on whether or not they had filed charges in 2011 or 2017 citing the current criminal case.
Police say before putting children in an unlicensed facility, it is good to be cautious.
“We encourage them to do their research, do their due diligence on that daycare. If the need to, go talk to neighbors, really find out what that daycare’s all about and how many kids they have there. Ask them questions. I know it’s hard to find daycare, parents tell us that all the time when we do cases involving daycare, but it’s important that they make sure on the onset that they’re not putting the child potential in a bad situation,” said Tompkins.
Neighbors we spoke with say they never saw kids playing outside the Mazza’s home but did say they would occasionally see Mazza outside by herself.
The DHS says there are about 3,000 childcare facilities in the state where they have oversight abilities. A database can be found on their website.
JOHNSTON, Iowa — A Johnston woman who is already facing charges for allegedly stealing money from a dependent adult is now facing charges related to the death of a child in her care at an unregistered daycare center.
Trina Mazza was charged with one count of Child Endangerment Causing Death during a court hearing on Thursday. A child died after being found unresponsive at Mazza’s home in February. The death lead to an investigation of Mazza and her husband, Michael Mazza, that resulted in charges related to allegedly stealing $163,000 from Michael Mazza’s mother.
The investigation also revealed that Mazza was running an unlicensed daycare from her home that was caring for more than seven children in violation of state law.