Daycare worker still in jail, awaiting preliminary court date

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2024

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The daycare worker charged with a death of an infant child is still in the Marengo County Jail as of Monday morning.

Versa Mae Simmons, 68, who was a worker at the now closed Tender Years Preschool & Nursery, was arrested on March 29 and charged with murder and four counts of aggravated child abuse. During her initial appearance for her murder charge, Simmons was given a $1 million bond. 

Marengo County Circuit Clerk Kenny Freeman said when the aggravated child abuse charges are added, he said the bond is well in excess of $1 million.

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“I can’t remember it exactly, but I believe her bond is around a million (dollars) and a half to $1,600,000,” Freeman said. “According to the jail report this morning, she has yet to post bond, and she is still in jail.”

Simmons is allegedly being held responsible for the death of 6-month-old Brayden Paul Robertson, son of Paul and Taylor Robertson of Demopolis. Police were called at 12:56 p.m. Monday, March 25 to the daycare, located at 1001 Maria Avenue, after Robertson was found unresponsive at the facility.

Demopolis Police Chief Rex Flowers said that first responders administered CPR to the child and transported him to Whitfield Regional Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Daycare investigation

Tender Years Preschool & Nursery has since been closed after the Alabama Department of Human Resources suspended the license of the business “due to imminent danger to the health and safety of the children” on April 5.

The facility is no longer listed on the state’s daycare directory. Russell Sellers, communications director for DHR, said they turned in their license in mid-April, and no further action is likely by DHR against the business.

“Tender Years Daycare & Preschool voluntarily surrendered its license on April 19,” Sellers said in an email. “As a result, no hearings will take place and no due process is applicable.”

DHR visited the business on March 26 and noted deficiencies.

“A five (5) month old infant was asleep on the floor and was not checked on by staff for an undetermined amount of time. A staff person placed the 5 month old infant on a blanket and allowed the child to fall asleep. Child’s file is not present at the center,” the DHR report said.

The report was signed by facility director Jean Gray and a representative of DHR on March 26. It indicated that the deficiencies needed to be corrected by April 9.

According to a WSFA story, records stated that the cause of death was due to “on more than one occasion, by willfully abusing, cruelly beating, or otherwise willfully maltreating,” However, the story did not indicate which document this statement came from.

Demopolis Police Chief Rex Flowers said he cannot release any additional information on the case at this time. No other persons have been charged, and no new charges have been filed against Simmons.

What’s next in the case

Freeman said that the date for the preliminary hearing has not been set up at this time.

“There was an issue with the attorney, and that’s the reason why the preliminary hearing has not yet been set up,” Freeman said. “A preliminary hearing is held to determine whether there is probable cause and if they will bind the case over to the grand jury for an indictment.”

Freeman said Simmons could be released only if the bail was made by either coming up with the full amount on their own or working with a bail bondsperson to cover the bond.

“Typically, most bail bondsmen or bondswomen will ask for around 10% of the bail,” Freeman said. “All of that would have to be worked out between them and the bond company.”