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Child's death has 'really affected' Enfield

ENFIELD — A memorial service for 4-year-old Willa Shine Clark is planned for noon on Saturday at the Community Lutheran Church.

Willa died Wednesday, two days after her coat caught on a makeshift lean-to outside an unlicensed home daycare, choking her.

"The community has been really affected by this," Enfield Police Chief Richard Crate said Thursday.

The accident occurred at the home of Mary Ellen Burritt, 718 Lockhaven Road, Crate said.

Burritt had been operating an unlicensed daycare out of her home.

"She's not operating right now," Crate said.

Because she had five children under her care, the state Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child Care Licensing has issued her a cease and desist order for caring for more than three children without a license from the state, Crate said.

If you care for three or fewer children unrelated to you in your home you can operate without a license.

Crate said he is still investigating the matter to determine "what if any laws were violated."

"I don't think there was any criminal intent at all in this," Crate said.

Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo would decide if any charges are filed in this case, Crate said.

"Definitely when we have these cases we do make recommendations to the prosecutors in what we see, but she has the ultimate decision making in that," Crate said.

Next week Crate said he plans to meet with Saffo and officials from the Child Care Licensing division to share his investigation findings.

"I'm going to try to have us all meet together and look at everything," Crate said. "What can we do to prevent something like this from happening. … We owe it to the victim in this situation, her family and everyone involved to look at everything here."

Crate said he also plans to review the case of an infant death at a separate daycare in town that took place recently.

"It was an infant that died while at a daycare that was unlicensed," he said. "This is (the) second death we've had at a daycare center in the last several months. … We've got two of these in our community in a short period of time."

Crate said Burritt was caring for five children, some related, at the day care.

Burritt had registered a daycare business with the state in 2005, Lothlorien Day Care, LLC. According to a 2000 New Hampshire Union Leader article, Burritt was a Girl Scout leader.

Monday afternoon, she was inside with one child, but told police she was watching the other children playing outdoors.

Willa apparently climbed onto a small makeshift lean-to and somehow fell, catching the back of her jacket on a stick.

Burritt did not see the fall, but saw what she thought was a jacket hanging off the lean-to and went outside to check it out.

She found the child hanging by her coat, unhooked her and immediately began CPR, according to Crate. She then went back inside and called 911.

When the back of the child's jacket got hung up on the stick, it put pressure on her neck, collapsing her airway, according to Crate.

In announcing their daughter's death Wednesday, Cara and Michael Clark said in a statement, "Willa Shine Clark was a bright light in our lives. She illuminated many of the paths that she crossed."

In lieu of flowers her family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Global Aids Interfaith Alliance, 700 Larkspur Landing Circle, Suite 250, Larkspur, Calif. 94939, www.thegaia.org.

mpierce@newstote.com


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