Megan Norris, the Texas mother of an infant who suffocated to death after being left by his caretaker to sleep in a car seat in a closet, spoke publicly about her son Wednesday afternoon.
Norris continually fought back tears as she spoke of her baby, John Norris. She described him as a sweet child who laughed and smiled a lot, noting he'd just begun crawling on Sunday, two days before he would have turned 9 months old.
"His smiles, giggles and coos lit up my life, every single day that God blessed me with him," Norris said. "I'm so thankful for every moment I had with him. I am devastated without my precious baby."
Investigators said the boy was one of nearly a dozen children being cared for Monday night at an unlicensed day care inside a home on the 600 block of Woodpecker Lane in Northwest Fort Worth. Investigators determined the caretaker, whose name has not been released, placed the child in the car seat, and then inside a walk-in closet, so that he could sleep. When the caretaker later checked on the boy, he was deceased.
Police said it appears Norris died in his sleep after sliding down in the car seat and suffocating. They believe he was not strapped in correctly, and the Tarrant County Medical Examiner ruled the boy's death an accident.
"I couldn't have been more blessed with another child. He changed my life, he really did," said Norris. "He made me a better person, without a doubt. He changed my life in so many ways and to completely backtrack on how far I have come over this would not be fair to him. So, I am living, still, for him and trying to get through every day trying not to completely fall apart."
Norris is a single mother who works nights in the food service industry, while also continuing her education. She said her hours meant traditional daycare was not an option. Norris chose to speak to the media Wednesday to share a word of warning for busy, single parents in need of after-hours care.
"I do not want what happened to John to happen to any other child. I am a single mom and there are a lot of other young parents out there just like me," Norris said, before recommending parents use only licensed caregivers or, at the very least, conduct in-depth investigations of those with whom they leave their children.
Norris said she found the babysitter after placing an ad on Facebook. She said the woman responded and they first met at her mother's law office where she interviewed her extensively. After that, Norris said she visited the woman's home, and she began taking care of John in January or February.
Norris said she typically dropped off her son in the afternoon and picked him up after midnight. She added that she never noticed any other children or saw any other parents coming and going. She said there were no red flags, no bruises, scratches or any other indication that her son was being neglected. She said she didn't know if it was a common practice for her son to be placed in a closet to sleep, but that if she'd known that was happening she wouldn't have kept bringing him there.
When asked about the reports that there were as many as a dozen children in the home, Norris said when the woman first began babysitting for her she was led to believe she was only watching her son and another child and that they were getting the woman's full attention. Norris said the woman later told them that her older niece and nephew were being placed with her and that she'd be taking care of them as well.
"Upon finding out that the Tarrant County Department of Family and Protective Services placed children in her home, that added an extra measure of comfort because, being an attorney in family law, and her, of course, being my daughter, we know the checks that the department puts in place. So they should not have placed children there if there were any red flags; that reaffirmed her belief that she had a quality person watching her child," said Lisa Crow, Megan's mother.
Marissa Gonzales, with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said Wednesday afternoon there is no county DFPS agency and that the state DFPS did not place any children with the caretaker.
Norris said she was notified at about 10:30 p.m. Monday that she needed to leave work and get to the babysitter's house. She said investigators would only tell her so much, and wouldn't let her in the home after she'd learned of her son's death.
"His passing is the most devastating thing any parent could ever endure," Norris said.
Megan's mother, fighting back tears for her child and grandchild, thanked first responders for doing what they could for her daughter as she learned of the tragedy.
"I would like to thank the first responders, the MedStar team. There were three of them that showed up. They stayed with her [Megan] nonstop for three hours," Crow said. "For the officers and investigators that were on the scene on Monday night, they were gracious, they were professional, and they made sure that she was taken care of and that she had what she needed."
Investigators said they do not believe there was any foul play, but that criminal charges may still be filed. The investigation into the child's death is ongoing and is being conducted by a number of law enforcement and state agencies.
The babysitter is not allowed to care for any other children while the investigation is underway. Child Protective Services is also looking into the safety of the children who live with her. CPS says they have had contact with the caretaker's family before, but won't say why.
NBC5's Alice Barr contributed to this report.