Couple found guilty of running unlicensed daycare

File photo The site of the now-closed daycare that Shane and Erica Lavalley ran on Ash Street. They have been found guilty of operating the daycare without a license.

NASHUA – The owners of the former Ash Street daycare that authorities began investigating two years ago after a child fell ill and later died have been found guilty of operating the center without a license.

Nashua district court Judge James Leary handed down guilty verdicts this week in the case of Shane and Erica Lavalley, who were each found guilty of one count of license required – prohibition against child endangerment. This accused them of “operating an unlicensed day care program,” according to Leary’s ruling.

The charges are Class A misdemeanors.

The Lavalleys next face a sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday in the Nashua court.

The licensing violations came to light during an investigation into the the death of the 15-month-old boy for whom the Lavalleys were caring at their home-based daycare at 131 Ash St. The boy was found unconscious and rushed to a local hospital, where he later died.

Police and investigators from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services did not implicate the Lavalleys in the child’s death, nor were they charged with any offenses aside from the licensing violation.

According to Leary’s ruling, Erica Lavalley began operating a daycare center out of the Ash Street home in 2005. In 2008, she was cited by DHHS officials for caring for five children, which is two more than the legal limit.

Shane Lavalley, Leary states, testified that when he was laid off from his job in 2011, he began “assisting” his wife in running the daycare, which by then had six children, according to Leary.

He said the Lavalleys argued they were in compliance with the state statute because they each cared for three children, “and therefore were not in violation,” Leary wrote.

Leary, however, said he agrees with “the state’s interpretation of the statute,” which is reflected in his finding that “it is the child care program that must be licensed, not the individuals providing the service.”