A North Philadelphia woman faces up to 22 years in prison in connection with the drowning of a boy who attended her improperly licensed day-care center.
Tianna Edwards, 32, pleaded guilty Thursday in Common Pleas Court to involuntary manslaughter, welfare fraud, and endangering the welfare of a child.
When 7-year-old Isear Jeffcoat went missing in June 2012, it took nine hours for a police marine unit to discover his body under six feet of murky water at the bottom of a swimming pool at Edwards' mother's house, prosecutors said.
Edwards operated Tianna's Terrific Daycare on Rising Sun Avenue, which Jeffcoat attended.
She misled police during the search for the boy, and gave inaccurate statements about her supervision of children in her care that day, Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley told Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart.
Edwards took Jeffcoat and 20 other children, including six toddlers, to her mother's house to swim that day, O'Malley said.
That number of swimmers is nearly four times the number that Edwards told police were there at the time, prosecutors said. She also told investigators that the pool water was clear, and that she personally checked on the children 20 times.
But prosecutors said Edwards was not even on the premises while the children went swimming.
"We do not know where she was," O'Malley said.
At the time of Edwards' arrest, police said that she was gambling that day at the SugarHouse Casino.
At the pool, O'Malley said, a garden hose was used to separate children from the 9-foot deep end.
Jeffcoat's mother cried as the prosecutor told the judge the boy had been dead for several hours by the time divers found him at the bottom of at least six feet of dirty water.
Prosecutors estimate that Edwards made $182,000 over two years, while improperly collecting $13,500 in welfare benefits.
"She was lying to welfare," said Assistant District Attorney Peter Berson, who helped investigate the case.
Edwards is serving a sentence of five years and three months on federal charges of fraudulently obtaining a day-care license, using her sister-in-law's identity, and improperly receiving $1.4 million in state subsidies from 2008 to 2011.
She could not have obtained a day-care license in her name and would not have been eligible to receive the funds because of a criminal record that included convictions for gun offenses, shoplifting, and insurance fraud.
Edwards' lawyer, Michael Giampietro, said his client takes responsibility for the "tragic accident." He said Edwards agreed to a plea because she, "does not wish to put the family through the pain of a trial."
Sentencing is not expected before March.