Owner of Tennessee day care where twin toddlers drowned gets 4 years’ probation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A woman who operated an in-home day care center in Tennessee where twin toddlers drowned two years ago pleaded guilty to two counts of criminally negligent homicide on Wednesday.

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Jennifer Salley, 37, will serve four years of state-supervised probation, at the request of the children’s family, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. She was charged in the deaths of Elijah Orejuela and Elyssa Orejuela in July 2018, the newspaper reported.

Salley entered her plea before Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword, WBIR reported.

Salley will also be placed on the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Severe Abuse Registry.

“There is no punishment for Jennifer Salley that could or would ever equal the suffering our family will endure the rest of our lives due to her criminal conduct,” the family wrote in a victim impact statement. “No amount of jail time would turn back time. It wouldn’t bring Elyssa back. It wouldn’t bring Elijah back. It would not bring their laughs back.”

The twins, who were almost 2 years old, were found by Salley floating in the pool of her rental home on July 20, 2018, WBIR reported. Elyssa Orejuela died that day. Her brother was put on life support but died two days later.

At the time of the children’s deaths, Salley was illegally operating the day care at her home, WVLT reported. Two months earlier, officials ordered Salley to stop running the business, called Om Baby, because she did not have a license, the television station reported. Salley also did not have custody of her own children when the drownings occurred, the News Sentinel reported.

The twins' parents, Amelia Wieand and Enrique Orejuela, later filed a lawsuit against Salley in Knoxville, the television station reported.

“Our love for Elyssa and Elijah will remain unbounded and unending,” the family wrote after Wednesday’s verdict. “The true joy we experienced as their parents is impossible to put into words. We cannot explain to the Court or to anyone the impact their loss will always have on our family.”