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Daycare driver charged after 3-year-old boy's death in hot van

Raymond “R.J.” Pryer Jr. died on July 19, 2018 after being left in a hot van for several hours at Discovering Me Academy.

HOUSTON — A former bus driver has been charged a year after a 3-year-old boy died in a hot daycare van

Maurice Mitchell, 62, was arrested Tuesday by Houston Police after being indicted Friday for injury to a child by recklessly causing serious bodily injury or death, a second-degree felony. 

Raymond “R.J.” Pryer Jr. died on July 19, 2018 after being left in a hot van for roughly four hours after returning to Discovering Me Academy from a field trip to Doss Park. 

Credit: GoFundMe - Support 4 Dikeisha & Raymond Pryer
R.J. Pryer, Jr.

R.J. was discovered when his father arrived at the day care to pick him up. The temperature inside the van was 113 degrees, deputies said.

The indictment stated that Mitchell disengaged a passenger safety alarm, which was to safeguard young passengers from being left behind, without first performing a visual inspection of the bus to ensure no children were still onboard.

R.J.’s parents filed a lawsuit against Discovering Me Academy about a month after R.J.'s death accusing them of negligence for not having systems in place to account for all children on field trips, especially during extreme heat.

KHOU 11 found Discovering Me Academy was cited by the state at least three times in recent years for not having a safety alarm that helps verify children are not left onboard and for not immediately reporting a crash involving a van.

RELATED: Day care where 3-year-old died after being left in hot van ordered to close

The day care was also cited for not knowing the number of children in a group during a previous outing.

R.J.'s parents described him as an amazing child who loved the color yellow and loved to sing. 

"We were blessed to have him 1,178 days to be exact, and I thank God that we had those years to be his parents." said Dikeisha Whitlock-Pryer. 

A memorial bench at Doss Park, which is dedicated to R.J., was unveiled on Saturday. 

“We needed to remember him for the joyful, energetic person that he was,” she Whitlock-Pryer. .

Over the last year she’s made it her mission to protect other children from this danger.

Whitlock-Pryer said, “We’re going to continue to fight for justice. We can’t allow another child to die. We can’t allow another family to suffer what we’re suffering right now.”

She said charges against Mitchell move her family closer to finding justice for RJ.

“It’s a must to fight for him. It’s a must that we continue to push forward and move forward,” Whitlock-Pryer said. “We thank God for that much. We’ve gotten that far. It’s just the beginning. We’re not done.”

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