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Lawyer: Unanswered questions in force-feeding case at Greenwich day care

January 25, 2019

GREENWICH — A child-care worker accused of force-feeding a youngster has received support from parents who have left children in her care even as she prepares for a court appearance Feb. 11 to answer two felony charges against her.

Karen Von Tobel, 56, of Hamilton Avenue, Greenwich, allegedly forced food into the mouth of a 17-month-old youngster in October at the YMCA of Greenwich Early Learning Center on St. Roch Avenue, “causing the child to cry and choke,” according to Greenwich police. She was arrested Dec. 12 and charged with two felony counts: risk of injury to a minor and intentional cruelty to a person.

According to the police report, “Detectives from the Special Victim’s Section conducted an investigation which included a video taken by another employee of the incident and interviews of involved parties. The video depicts the child having food forced into his mouth while crying, as well as gagging and choking on the food forced into his mouth. An eyewitness corroborated the contents of the video.”

Her lawyer, Stephan Seegar, who said Von Tobel had been terminated from her position, said there should be no rush to judgment in the case, and other factors may be at play.

“Like other cases that involve sensitive matters, things can be blown out of proportion. Accordingly, we’re taking a close look at video and other evidence at this juncture to make sense of the allegations,” Seeger said in an email.

“We are also investigating the sources of the complaint and other motives that any employee may have had, since the one thing that is clear includes the fact that the person taking the video didn’t intervene to help,” Seeger said.

“To be sure there are a few unanswered questions that remain in this case and before everyone rushes to judgment, I think a complete review of all the evidence is required. Remember, my client was recently promoted to her supervisory role, and many people who experienced leaving their children in her hands have sent notes and letters of support — some even publicly. At minimum, there appears to be a little more to this story than first glance gives us, and we intend to flesh out the backdrop of these allegations in an effort to resolve the matter in a forthright and expeditious manner,” he continued.

A state review at the St. Roch facility was initiated after the arrest. According to Child Care & Youth Camp Licensing Investigations, a “corrective action plan” was submitted in the wake of the arrest.

Von Tobel was released on $25,000 bond.

Police did not specifically release the name of the child-care facility involved, but St. Roch Avenue was listed on the police report, and the child-care facility in the west end of Greenwich matched with the state records involved in the follow-up investigation.

Bob DeAngelo, chief executive officer of the Y, said he couldn’t comment on the case.

rmarchant@greenwichtime.com

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