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Operator of illegal day care takes plea, avoids prison

Amanda Anderson pleaded guilty to child abuse - negligently causing death.

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — A woman who ran an illegal, unlicensed day care where an 3-month-old girl died in 2020 pleaded guilty Friday to child abuse-negligently causing death in a deal with prosecutors that will let her avoid prison time.

Amanda Anderson, 36, was caring for 17 children on the day Elle Matthews died, Aug. 26, 2020.

Anderson was sentenced to eight years of supervised probation, which could be cut to five years if she complies with all of the requirements of the plea.

State law severely restricts the number of children who can be cared for in an unlicensed in-home day care – and records obtained by 9Wants to Know in 2021 showed that Anderson had been ordered to stop four times before Elle Matthews died.

Anderson was originally charged with child abuse-knowingly or recklessly causing death and tax evasion.

After an autopsy, a forensic pathologist found no signs of trauma but could not determine how Elle died. However, Dr. Dawn B. Holmes, the pathologist, wrote that suffocation in soft-bedding or smothering “cannot be definitely excluded.”

According to court documents, Anderson called 911 on that day in August 2020, reporting that she had put Elle down for a nap and returned later to find her unresponsive.

Paramedics rushed her to Sky Ridge Medical Center, where she died a short time later.

When Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies questioned Anderson, she initially said she lived at the home with three children of her own and was watching six others who were inside the house, according to court documents.

In fact, she had 17 children in the home – Anderson’s then-7-year-old daughter and 16 others. That included three infants, five children who were between 1 and 2 years old, and four more who were between 2 and 3 years old.

Besides Anderson’s daughter, the oldest of the children was 5, according to court documents.

Colorado law puts strict limits on people operating unlicensed day cares:

  • They can care for no more than four children who are not related to one another – and no more than two of them can be under age 2.
  • They can care for children they are directly related to.
  • They can care for children who are siblings from one family.

Beginning in 2014, state investigators repeatedly told Anderson that she was violating the law by providing care to too many children from too many families.

Documents obtained by 9Wants to Know show that she was notified in writing four times that she was suspected of violating state law and ordered her to stop – in March 2014, September 2016, March 2017 and January 2020.

Eight months after the last order, Elle Matthews died. The state again ordered her to stop providing unlicensed day care.

But court documents show it didn’t stop her. Documents obtained by 9Wants to Know show that within days of Elle Matthews’ death, Anderson told other parents the girl was a victim of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and that “she was reopening her day care."

Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: kevin.vaughan@9news.com or 303-871-1862.

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