On a warm August afternoon, Lauren Landgrebe strapped an 11-month-old into a car seat on the dining room table of her unlicensed day-care center, hoping the fussy infant would fall asleep after drinking from the bottle she propped up next to her. She left the child sleeping there, she told police, stopping to send a photo of the child in that pose through Snapchat, joking that the baby had “a rough night.”
Two hours later, the infant was unresponsive. An autopsy would later reveal that the child wasn’t properly secured in the car seat and had been strangled by its chest harness.
Landgrebe, 48, was charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of children, and operating an unlicensed day care. She was also charged with theft by deception for failing to report her income from the business while collecting Social Security payments.
She was arraigned in Northampton Township and jailed after failing to post 10% of $500,000 bail.
Her attorney, Ellis Klein, called the child’s death an “unspeakable tragedy.”
“This was a horrific, tragic accident. Nothing was done intentionally,” Klein said. “She’s devastated by what happened, not just for her but for the family. She loved that baby.”
Landgrebe had been running the day care out of her home for a few years, according to Klein. It started when she watched friends’ children.
At the time of her arrest, Landgrebe was caring for eight children, ranging in age from 11 months to 7 years old, according to the affidavit of probable cause for her arrest.
She was earning as much as $80 a day from the day care, payments she had not reported to the government, the affidavit said. Meanwhile, she had been collecting Social Security for 10 years.
Landgrebe allegedly told detectives that after placing the infant in the car seat, she went outside with two other children she was caring for. She only once checked on the infant as she slept, according to the affidavit.
When her husband came home, he saw that the infant “didn’t look right” and noticed a liquid coming out of her mouth, the affidavit said. He gave the child CPR while waiting for paramedics to arrive.
As her husband tried to resuscitate the child, Landgrebe deleted the photo she had jokingly sent through social media, according to investigators.
An autopsy revealed that the infant had slid down in the car seat and that the seat’s chest-strap buckle had caused the child to asphyxiate, the affidavit said.