'We trusted her': Victims' family speaks out in day care drugging case

INDIANAPOLIS - Teresa Rhodes, the grandmother of two children allegedly drugged by their day care provider Stephanie Gribble, wants to know why.

"I just want to talk to her," Rhodes said to Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney after Gribble appeared in court Monday morning. "We trusted her."

Gribble, an unlicensed day care operator, is charged with six felony counts of neglect of a dependent after four children from her day care were hospitalized from apparent drug overdoses, including Rhodes' two granddaughters, ages 2 and 5.

The 5-year-old girl was displaying signs of a depressed central nervous system, including swollen tongue, clinched fists and loss of body control, according to the probable cause affidavit.

The 2-year-old girl passed out completely and would not wake up.

"The medical staff also gave her three doses of an intravenous medication in an attempt to wake her, but she never did wake up or open her eyes," read the probable cause. "The most she would do was moan when they moved her entire body. She eventually revived somewhat when they transferred her to Community North late that evening, but remained lethargic and slept through much of the following day or so."

Gribble entered a not guilty plea at a hearing Monday morning and a trial date was set for April 21.

She is being held on $40,000 bond.

Prosecutors say at least six children in Gribble's care were drugged, with at least four needing hospitalization.

"Anytime a parent leaves their responsibility with another individual, they have a right to expect a basic level of care," said Kristina Korobov, special victims supervisor. "No matter where you leave your child, there is never an excuse to do what is alleged in these particular facts."

According to the probable cause, an 11-month-old girl in Gribble's care "appeared drunk, wasn't responding when spoken to … there were bubbles of spit coming from her mouth, she was swaying back and forth and she was grunting."

A fourth child, a 5-year-old boy, was taken to the emergency room when he was found acting odd and drooling.

"He was sitting there with his head hanging down sideways onto his chest with his tongue hanging out and drool coming from his mouth. The entire front of his shirt was soaked with his own drool. He couldn't talk at all and was shaking a little," according to court documents.

Prosecutors say parents need to do their research, as Gribble was operating without a license.

"This is not the first time we've heard about unlicensed day cares, and there being an issue with them and the lack of monitoring," said Korobov.

As the Call 6 Investigators have reported, unlicensed day cares do not have to submit to background checks or do CPR training, safe sleep training or drug testing.

Doctors at Community Health North Hospital consulted with Poison Control and determined the most likely cause of the children's symptoms was an overdose of anticholinergic drugs -- medications commonly found in sleep aids and cold medications.

Doctors determined the most likely candidates for the source of the overdose were Benadryl and Risperidone.

According to court documents, the children told investigators that Gribble would regularly give them "grape medicine" before nap time to help them sleep. A 4-year-old who attended the day care, but was not hospitalized, told police that Gribble had given her OCD medication intended for Gribble's 8-year-old son.

Another child said Gribble had given her a pink pill to eat and purple liquid to drink.

Both Risperidone and Benadryl sometimes come in the form of a pink pill. Benadryl is also sometimes sold in the form of a purple liquid.

During a search of Gribble's home, which doubled as the day care business, police found an empty 30 mL bottle of Risperidone, an empty bottle of grape-flavored "Assured" brand children's night time cold and cough medicine and a small oral syringe used to administer medication by mouth.

The active ingredient in the cold and cough medicine is Diphenhydramine, which is marketed under the trade name Benadryl.

Police said Gribble initially denied giving any medication to the children, but eventually said she had given two of the children cold medicine because they had "runny noses."

She also admitted to giving the 2-year-old child medicine because "she was crying so much."

Gribble said her son had been prescribed Risperidone for his OCD, but couldn't account for the bottle being empty when the prescription had been filled just three days before.

Risperidone, an anti-psychotic drug that affects neurotransmitters in the brain, can cause seizures and other potentially deadly side effects, according to Indiana Poison Control's Dr. Jerry Snow.

"[It is] extremely reckless and irresponsible for a day care provider to give young children in her care any amount of Risperidone that wasn't prescribed to them," Snow said.

Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney had been looking into Stephanie Gribble, formerly Stephanie Smith, for several weeks and learned Gribble has a history with the Family and Social Services Administration dating back to 2008.

In November 2012, the Attorney General's Office obtained an injunction for a then-named Stephanie Smith to stop her from operating an illegal day care at 11328 Stoeppelwerth Drive in Indianapolis.

Marni Lemons, a spokeswoman for the Family and Social Services Administration, told Kenney on Jan. 29 the agency followed up and Smith appeared to have moved out of the residence.

When an illegal day care is issued a cease-and-desist letter, it is warned the attorney general may seek a civil penalty of $100 a day for each day of operating without a license.

The state is still attempting to collect $3,300 in civil penalties from Gribble/Smith.

"It is important that parents understand the licensing process and that they be vigilant about ensuring that their children are being cared for by licensed providers that are operating legally," Lemons said. "For example, child care providers operating out of a home must be licensed if they care for more than five unrelated children. FSSA provides information on licensed and registered providers at www.childcarefinder.in.gov."
 

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