Driver in fatal Arcadia day care crash faces new charges; family sues day care

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia
Published: Updated:
Kiara Morant. Credit: DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office

The woman accused of killing a 4-year-old and injuring another child when she crashed into an Arcadia day care now faces an additional charge: grand theft auto.

According to the Arcadia Police Department, a man reported on March 17 that 18-year-old Kiara Morant had taken his Jeep without permission. This report was made the day after Morant is accused of crashing the vehicle into the Imagination Station Learning Center as she drove on SR-70. The man told police that Morant, a family friend who had been living with him for a little over a week, had taken the keys to his vehicle from his bedroom while he was at work.

After the crash, Morant had told the Florida Highway Patrol that she had been given permission to drive the Jeep despite her not having a driver’s license.

According to the report, the daughter of the Jeep’s owner told officers that Morant had contacted her via a Facebook video call, crying and screaming about having wrecked the vehicle and thinking she may have killed someone. The woman said she usually drove Morant anywhere she needed to go and had never seen Morant drive the Jeep before.

The crash killed Maleena Valdez who had been playing in the playground.

While Morant faces charges in the crash, Maleena’s family also blames the day care they say was supposed to keep her safe.

The family has filed a lawsuit against the Imagination Station day care because the owners should’ve known its location and lack of barriers along State Road 70, a busy road, puts children at risk, according to the suit.

A guardrail was installed after the crash, but before it was a chainlink fence that kept the children safe.

The court papers say the daycare had a “duty to provide the children in its care a reasonably safe playground and they breached their duty by negligently designing its playground location.”

Maleena’s family wants a jury to rule the day care is responsible and decide on damages.

The bond for Morant’s grand theft auto charge is set at $1,500. Her initial bond for charges related to the crash was $200,000.

Morant remains behind bars.

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