One year without answers as toddler daycare death remains unsolved with no arrests made

It’s been one year since two-year-old Vienna Irwin was found dead on the property of a once-thriving licensed daycare. Her parents are still searching for answers as to how their lives changed that fateful day and who is responsible for their toddler's tragic death.

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Watch Me Grow daycare in Baltimore, Ont. was the scene of a crime last year when the body of a two-year-old was found dead inside a closed-lid septic tank in the fenced-in play yard.

The small town community of Cobourg, an hour east of Toronto along the 401 corridor, was rocked by the untimely death of Vienna Rose Irwin on May 25, 2023. Vienna’s parents, Claire and Clay Irwin, were not called or alerted of their daughter's disappearance before her mother arrived at end-of-day pick-up that Thursday night.

Claire immediately called the police, who arrived on the scene swiftly. The already deceased body of her once lively toddler was pulled from a closed-lid septic tank, which was in the middle of the toddler's fenced-in outdoor play yard.

A year has passed and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have made no arrests in the case. The OPP issued a press release last week to “reassure” the community that the criminal investigation remains ongoing but won’t say much else to “protect the integrity” of the investigation.

Community members, family, friends and strangers gathered on the first anniversary of Vienna's passing with butterflies, which have become a community symbol to commemorate her life. As a curious toddler supposed to have her whole life ahead of her, butterflies were one of her favourite things to watch in wonder.

“As an educator, I want to see that the knowledge around what’s required, what should have happened, what shouldn’t have happened,” said family friend and fellow early childhood educator Olivia Rellinger. “This was completely, completely preventable.”

“We will be here fighting alongside [the family] until they have answers as to what exactly happened that day,” Heather Fields, a close family friend, shared.

“The main thing is the duty to report,” explains Rellinger. “As educators, our first priority is the children, always. Regardless of how you feel about those around you and the connections, ultimately your responsibility as a professional is to report.”

Heather Fields, another family friend, asserts that Vienna did not put the septic tank lid back on herself. “Babies don’t just end up in septic tanks,” she disturbingly shares. “People need to be held accountable. The truth needs to come out. Her parents deserve answers.”

Vienna’s Godmother Alisha Carr calls the lack of information gleaned from those providing Vienna’s care that fateful day “disturbing.”

“It’s all hush-hush, so we’re here to make sure that people are listening,” Carr tearfully explains. “We want answers for closure and for people to be held accountable. Nobody is accountable right now. They’re living their life having a great summer and here we are, devastated. This is our new reality.”

“Vienna didn’t throw her shoes and her jacket on herself that day and go outside to play,” details Fields. “She was not by herself. She was in an enclosed play yard that was supposed to keep her safe and so many people failed her in so many ways. Somebody knows what happened. She was not by herself. That lid was placed back on. Why it was off in the first place, I don’t know if we’ll ever know.”

While the rally focused on the themes of accountability, responsibility and justice, those can’t come without answers for the family.

“It would be nice for some changes to be made,” furthered Rellinger, who said one of the main ways to get justice is to prevent another tragedy like this from happening in the future.

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