Records show troubling issues surrounding Heavenly Angels day care


by Adam Walser

Posted on June 19, 2012 at 5:51 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 22 at 12:14 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- June 19 marks one week since a day care van crash killed a van monitor and injured several children.

WHAS 11’s I-Team has learned that many of the drivers for the former Heavenly Angels Day Care have had trouble with the law, and some weren't even allowed to drive.

When the Heavenly Angels day care van crashed into a tree last week, killing a monitor and injuring 14 children, it was far from the first time the day care center had been in trouble over transportation issues.

“It was a tragedy going to happen. It was going to happen. It was going to happen,” Angela Anderson, whose daughter worked for Heavenly Angels and whose granddaughter attended the day care, said. “It's just a mess and it seems like everything was out of control.”

Hundreds of state records we obtained through the Kentucky Open Records Law seem to support that opinion.

On the day of the accident, there were 14 children on the van, but the law only allows for 13 children to be transported at one time.

The state also investigated allegations that van drivers drove fast and that children who were not wearing seat belts fell out of their seats. Investigators were not able to substantiate those complaints.

A neighbor tells us he witnessed some of that.

“We would see them come out different times with the kids, sling them in the van. You could tell it was not a very professional place,” the neighbor said.

Records show the very same van involved in the fatal crash last week was driven into a utility pole at a Shively shopping center in early April.

We've learned the driver of the van at the time of the crash last week was Keisha Tiller. She was charged with driving without a license in 2009 and speeding through a school zone in 2010. Childcare regulations require day care van drivers to have a valid license for at least five years.

A form submitted to the state showed Lavonia Lewars, Shawnessa Richadson, Leondra Bendington and Jasmine Kellogg were the scheduled drivers for the center in July of 2010. Of those drivers, only Lewars has maintained a valid driver’s license for the past five years.

We did criminal background checks on all of them, and discovered dozens of citations. The reports included arrests for speeding, hit and run and even heroin trafficking. Lewars, the day care owner, has been charged with driving more than 15 miles an hour over the speed limit four times in the past six years.

“You own a business, you have to take responsibility for everything that goes on,” Anderson said.

Louisville Metro Police is continuing to investigate the crash and have not filed any charges.

We were unable to reach Lewars for comment.