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Justice for Joseph: Parents of boy killed in Chesterfield daycare fire vow to continue fight

Posted at 9:26 PM, Mar 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-16 00:24:53-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The family of a one-year-old boy who died in a fire at an in-house daycare in Chesterfield County is speaking out after the operator dropped her appeal.

In a statement, the family of Joseph Allen said they are disappointed more serious charges have not been brought against Laurie Underwood, the daycare operator, but that her decision to withdraw her appeal means she has accepted responsibility.

Joseph's parents also they will continue their efforts to find justice for their son by working for tougher penalties for daycare provider negligence.

"The recent legislative enactments which seek to improve the regulation of Virginia daycares are a good first step, but much more is needed, particularly with regard to more severe criminal penalties. For example, felony charges should be required by the Commonwealth when the negligence of a daycare provider results in the serious injury or death of a child," Matthew and Jaci Allen said in a statement.

Underwood was sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty to operating a daycare without a license.

RELATED:  Woman sentenced to jail after child dies in Chesterfield in-house daycare fire

Joseph Allen with this parents.

Joseph Allen with this parents.

Here is the complete statement from the Allen family: 

We greatly appreciate the efforts of everyone involved in bringing some degree of Justice for Joseph.

While we remain disappointed that more serious charges have yet to be brought against Ms. Underwood, the withdrawal of her appeal of the recent jail sentence does suggest that she has finally accepted some level of responsibility for the tragic results of her criminal conduct.

But the resolution of this criminal case against Ms. Underwood does not conclude our efforts to find full Justice for Joseph.

The recent legislative enactments which seek to improve the regulation of Virginia daycares are a good first step, but much more is needed, particularly with regard to more severe criminal penalties. For example, felony charges should be required by the Commonwealth when the negligence of a daycare provider results in the serious injury or death of a child.

We will continue our efforts to strengthen existing legislation in Joseph’s name and on behalf of all the children who have died in unsafe child care settings.

None of these actions will bring back our beloved Joseph, but if the life of even one child can be spared, Joseph’s death will not have been in vain.
-- Matthew and Jaci Allen