The unlicensed daycare provider left the 18-month-old girl and her brother alone for five hours.
The unlicensed daycare provider left the 18-month-old girl and her brother alone for five hours.

Girl dies in car seat left in closet for 5 hours at daycare

CEIRA and her twin brother, Colby, were dropped off to their daycare provider, Elmarie Simons' house at 7.15 am by their father, Ryan McGrath.

Even though he asked Simons not to give his 18-month-old toddlers a morning nap - she put Ceira in a baby car seat in a closet at about 8am - while Colby is believed to have been placed in a play pen.

Not following through with Ryan's wishes is not even close to the worst part of what happened on that fateful day on November 12 in 2015.

It was when Simons decided to leave the children alone for five hours to run errands at Walmart and McDonald's that the Canadian family's lives would never be the same again.

The car seat was so small that the leg straps would not do up - so just the chest buckle could be fastened around the toddler .

It wasn't until 1.30 pm that the unlicensed day-care provider called 911 after finding Ceira unresponsive and unconscious.

However, by the time that the ambulance arrived - little Ceira was dead.

Ceira's mother, Tanya Gladwell, will never forget the incredibly surreal moment she was called by a police officer who only revealed that there had been a "terrible accident" before picking her up and rushing her to the hospital.

"When I arrived at the hospital and stepped out of the police car, there were several police there and what appeared to be a first responder - I knew Ceira was dead," Tanya vividly recalls to CBC.

Then she was taken to say goodbye to her baby girl.

When police brought Ceira's twin brother Colby to the hospital, he cried out, "Gone, gone, gone" over and over.

"What did he see? What happened to Colby?" his distraught mum said.

All her young son has is "two very messed up grieving parents," Tanya said.

The court heard that Ceira was likely "trying to get out" and became entangled in the straps when she died of asphyxiation.

After denying multiple times that she had ever left the little girl in the car seat before - she finally admitted to police nine months after Ceira's death that it was not the first time she had done this.

Ceira's father, Ryan, described how his daughter was a "frightened, alone, distressed, and helpless little girl" during her final hours.

"We miss her so much it literally brings me to my knees," Ryan said in his victim impact statement.

Both parents described isolating themselves from friends and family and removing anything from their lives that reminded them of their darling daughter - including selling their dream family home.

They said the joyful memories they once had of their twins had become too painful for words.

They also spoke of the unbearable guilt they feel that the twins were on waiting lists for licensed daycare centres - but they had no luck being able to get them in anywhere.

When asked about why she lied to police, Simons said she was reluctant to tell the truth "because it sounded so bad" and she "was trying to cover [her] butt."

Elmarie Simons is expected to be sentenced this week. (CTV Calgary)
Elmarie Simons is expected to be sentenced this week. (CTV Calgary)

Simons apologised to Ceira's family saying "I am so sorry, but I know that doesn't cut it."

And then added: "I am not the monster you think I am."

The 59-year-old, who has pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death, described Ceira as "a rainbow of a child".

"Not a day goes by without me thinking of that little beautiful girl," she said.

"This is not about me, it's about the shattered lives which I caused, the anguish, the sorrow, the pain and depression for which I am responsible."

Prosecutors are seeking a four-year prison term, while Simons' lawyer is asking for a two-year sentence. Judge Jim Ogle will sentence Simons this week.

This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.