LEOMINSTER, Mass. — The owner of Small People Daycare has surrendered her license to operate after a dead body was found in her home, where she ran a child care center, state records show.
According to the police report obtained by 25 Investigates, the body of Robert Guzman Cruz, 35, was found on May 18, three days after he was last seen entering the house.
“[T]he deceased male was in a bedroom on the first floor and displayed some decomposition, rigor mortis and lividity,” the report states.
Guzman Cruz, who according to a statement made by his sister to police, had “past addiction problems with cocaine and heroin” is believed to have died of a “possible drug overdose [sic].”
Investigative reporter Ted Daniel went to the Lancaster Street home in late May following a viewer tip about the incident to talk to the day care owner. Swings, tricycles and other children’s toys could be seen behind a fence, evidence that young children until recently played on the property.
No one answered the door when the 25 Investigates crew arrived but we were able to reach the owner, Maria Pimenta DaSilva, by phone. DaSilva is Brazilian and only speaks Portuguese but she agreed to meet us at the property and talk to us off-camera through an interpreter.
She invited the crew into the house and recounted the events of May 18.
According to DaSilva, a couple of weeks earlier Guzman Cruz started subletting a first-floor bedroom just down the hall from the area of the house that was licensed for childcare. She alleges he didn’t have any access or contact with any of the five children she cared for and said that she didn’t know him well or that he struggled with drug addiction.
However, the police report indicates, “There were no locked doors or anything structurely [sic] separating the decedents [sic] ability to access the day care area other than a small child’s gate that does not have a locking mechanism.”
The police report also states there were “small children, milling about on the front lawn and driveway” the day police were called to the day care about the dead body.
According to a statement made by his sister to police, Guzman Cruz had recently sought treatment for drug addiction at a facility in New Jersey.
And 25 Investigates learned that he was hospitalized for a drug overdose just two weeks earlier.
We contacted the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to learn about the compliance history of Small People Daycare and check if Guzman Cruz or other renters should have been living on the day care premises.
A spokeswoman told us an in-person inspection of the daycare occurred in September 2020 and no serious violations were found. She added that state law requires anyone 15 and older who lives or regularly visits a day care to have a background or CORI check.
There was no CORI on file for Guzman Cruz. EEC also said DaSilva’s license to operate a day care is “temporarily inactive,” pending an investigation, and that mental health resources have been made available to the kids who were in her care.
Police did not find drugs or drug paraphernalia in the room where Guzman Cruz was found or in the home.
But the report points out that “it is common for persons making the discovery to “clean” the area free of evidence prior to first responders arrival.”
To date, no criminal charges have been filed in connection with this incident.
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