Knoxville daycare owner gets 4-year sentence for 2018 drowning deaths of twin toddlers

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The owner of a Knoxville daycare will serve four years of state-supervised probation after pleading guilty in the 2018 deaths of twin toddlers.

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Jennifer Salley, owner of OM Baby Childcare, pleaded guilty to two counts of criminally negligent homicide on Wednesday. She was charged after 2-year-old Elyssa and Elijah Orejulah were found in the deep end of a swimming pool at the daycare in July 2018. Elyssa died the same day. Elijah died a few days later.

She will serve a four-year sentence of state supervised probation at the request of the victims’ family. As part of the plea agreement, Salley will be placed on the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Severe Abuse Registry.

The children’s parents filed a lawsuit against Salley for nearly $18 million.

There were several complaints to the Department of Human Services over Jennifer Salley’s daycare in the months leading up to the drowning. Body camera video showed Knox County deputies and a DHS worker serving her paperwork.

An attorney for the family read a victim impact statement to the Court outlining why the family wanted this resolution.

On July 20th, 2018, our world was destroyed in one phone call. We had entrusted Jennifer Salley with the care of two of the most important things in our lives. Jennifer Salley failed our children that day. Her criminal neglect cost our children their lives and destroyed the family we knew. Her guilt goes far beyond the immeasurable pain of losing the twins. The trail of destruction she left is unfathomable. From the horrors of arriving on the scene and seeing EMS frantically perform CPR on our babies to our older sons walking into an ER room and watching their mother cradle their dead sister’s body…those images don’t disappear. The flashbacks and nightmares…do not go away.

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. 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.

We have requested that the District Attorney’s office agree to this final and certain resolution because it will help protect other families. Ms. Salley’s acceptance of responsibility and guilty plea to the two permanent felony convictions as charged should deter others from engaging in this type of conduct in the future. Jennifer Salley remaining permanently on the DCS registry and the other conditions required by this resolution should also protect other children.

We appreciate the hard work of the District Attorney’s office and the Knox County Sheriff’s Department which led to Ms. Salley accepting responsibility for these criminal offenses, and we also appreciate this Court’s consideration of this resolution.

Our love for Elyssa and Elijah will remain unbounded and unending. 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.

Victim impact statement from Orejulah family

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