AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local daycare worker and program director are on administrative leave Thursday night, after a child was sent home with a man not on the approved list.
Austin Police Department documents indicate Irwin Pentland picked up the two-year-old from the St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center and left him unsupervised at his mother’s home for hours on end. He has been charged with the second degree felony of “abandoning or endangering a child.”
An important factor is that the child was taken the day before police found his grandfather dead in West Austin on November 19th. The child lived with 75-year-old Phillip Liberty, and homicide detectives are still investigating his death.
Police discovered Liberty’s body after receiving a 911 call in reference to a welfare check in the 7100 block of Las Ventanas Drive. A neighbor had called, concerned, after Liberty veered from a strict routine he had followed for the last four months. That routine included Liberty bringing his grandson over to the neighbor’s home at the same time each morning, before he dropped the child off to daycare. According to police documents, the neighbor said Liberty would also routinely leave his garage door open while taking his grandson to daycare and then he could close it once he returned home. But none of that happened the 19th.
It was when an APD detective was interviewing another one of Liberty’s neighbors that they learned his grandson had been dropped off at the daycare by an “unknown person.” The affidavit goes on to say that according to staff at the St. Louis Early Childhood Development Center, Pentland had never picked up the child before. They copied his driver’s license and Pentland showed the staff a picture of he and the child on his phone, and left with the child even though he was not on the authorization list.
According to the affidavit, Pentland told police he’s known Liberty for about seven years through Alcoholics Anonymous, and visited him at his West Austin home the morning of November 18th to discuss “a proposed business endeavor.” Law enforcement discovered Liberty’s body the very next day. Pentland told an APD detective Liberty’s son was “having some problems” so Liberty told Pentland he may have to pick his grandson up from daycare. Though Liberty never called to confirm, police documents indicate Pentland went ahead to pick up the child anyway.
Pentland admitted he hid the boy at his mother’s home and left him there before taking the child back to daycare the next day. In Pentland’s original story to police, he told detectives he brought the child back to his own home.
“Pentland admitted to Det. Israel that he had not told his wife about the fact that he had the child in his care,” the affidavit says.
Another disconnect is mentioned in the police report. Pentland told police that he attempted to call Liberty multiple times while he had the child, but he was never able to reach him. After examining his call log, Det. Israel discovered that Pentland had only made one call to Liberty. Sometime after 9:00 a.m. on the 19th, the day after he picked the child up from daycare.
In the affidavit, dangers listed in Pentland’s mother’s home, where the child was left, include but are not limited to: “danger of poisoning; danger of injury from falling boxes; danger of asphyxiation from gas stove. Affiant further believes that, at the the point the child was left alone, he was in imminent and immediate danger from the many dangers that then and there existed.”
When Father James Misko learned about Pentland’s charge Thursday, the church suspended the staff member who released the grandson, as well as the daycare’s director, saying this will not happen again.
In a statement to KXAN, Father Misko wrote:
“Unfortunately, earlier today I learned that one of our personnel in our Early Childhood Development Center may not have not followed the proper procedures for releasing a child. Effective immediately, the staff member who released the child as well as the Director of the program have been placed on administrative leave so that we can gather more information. As the safety of the children in our program is of the highest importance, we will immediately re-visit our protocols for the drop off and pick up of children. No child will be released to a person who is not on our official pick up list.”
At this time, no one has been charged with Liberty’s death.