default avatar
Welcome to the site! Login or Signup below.
Logout|My Dashboard

Lodi woman arraigned on accusations of leaving children strapped in car seats in closets

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2012 11:42 am | Updated: 6:17 am, Sat Sep 1, 2012.

A Lodi daycare provider accused of leaving children in darkened closets strapped into car seats is facing 26 misdemeanor counts, including child endangerment, child abuse and forgery.

While Dorothy "Dottie" Bernhoft did not attend an arraignment on the charges Friday morning, at least 25 parents who had children in her care did.

Bernhoft faces 24 counts of cruelty to a child by endangering their health, one count of child abuse and one count of forgery. Bernhoft's attorney Joel Perisho asked the arraignment to be continued until Oct. 3 at 9:30 a.m.

The California Department of Social Services has also permanently prohibited Bernhoft from working in any licensed child care facility.

The charges and the child care ban are a result of officers from the Department of Social Services spending more than four hours during an unannounced visit on Jan. 27 searching through Bernhoft's home, where she ran the daycare, in the 2300 block of Woodlake Circle.

Officers said they found infants without supervision crying and buckled in car seats in darkened closets and a bathroom with the doors shut. In one of the closets where an infant was restrained, there were also two loaded shotguns and ammunition, according to the inspection report. Four other children were in their car seats inside of cribs in darkened bedrooms, the report stated.

Inspectors also wrote that radios were playing throughout the house, making it difficult for Bernhoft to hear the infants or children crying or calling for their moms.

San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Kristine Reed said she filed the charges based on the 10 children found in Bernhoft's home on Jan. 27. She also included seven other children who were in Bernhoft's care from July 2011 to July 2012. The 17 children range in age from 6 months to 5 years old, but most were under the age of 4, Reed said.

Each of the 26 counts carries a maximum sentence of one year. Reed said she is focused on the probation period, and making sure there are restrictions on Bernhoft's ability to care for children.

"My goal at the end of the day is to make sure she is not watching any more children," she said.

Bernhoft was charged with misdemeanors because felonies are for actions that could result in great bodily injury or death, Reed explained. Child endangerment is "an omission of care" that could cause harm or mental suffering.

"There's a duty of care owed to a child when you are taking care of them," Reed said.

Because there are so many counts, Perisho told Judge Lauren Thomasson he needed more time to go through the counts and documents.

"It is a lengthy case, as you can tell by the size of the complaint," Perisho said.

Perisho said previously he would not comment on the case.

Outside of the courtroom, Reed addressed the parents waiting and explained the rest of the process. She thanked the parents for showing up at the arraignment because it sends a clear message to Bernhoft's attorney that they plan to follow the case.

The Department of Social Services also has taken action against Bernhoft.

In addition to leaving the children in the car seats, investigators said Bernhoft did not change the children's diapers until right before their parents picked them up. She used diaper rash ointment to hide any rashes the children received from wearing the same diaper all day, the report said.

While restrained, some of the children ate insulation from their car seat, the report said. The kids were able to reach plastic dry cleaner bags, cleaning materials, medication, scissors and knives.

Bernhoft was also caring for too many children. Bernhoft was licensed to care for eight children in her home, but instead had nine infants and one child over the age of 2 in her care.

Officials said Bernhoft's assistant Connie Duff was not fingerprinted or licensed to work in a daycare facility, and was left alone with the children.

During the inspection in January, Bernhoft agreed to give up her state license, and later said she did not plan to file an appeal, spokesman Michael Westin said.

But Westin said the department still wanted to move forward with a lifetime ban to prevent Bernhoft from caring for children at any of the state's licensed facilities. The ban was agreed to and approved on Feb. 21.

"You can give up your license, but that's not enough for us. We are going to take the further action to make sure you are not a threat to our clients," he said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

More about

More about

More about

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Use your real name. You must register with your full first and last name before you can comment. (And don't pretend you're someone else.)
  • 2 Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually oriented language.
  • 3 Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
  • 4 Be truthful. Don't lie about anyone or anything. Don't post unsubstantiated allegations, rumors or gossip that could harm the reputation of a person, company or organization.
  • 5 Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 6 Stay on topic. Make sure your comments are about the story. Don't insult each other.
  • 7 Tell us if the discussion is getting out of hand. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 8 Share what you know, and ask about what you don't.

Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:


Popular Stories


Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

Total Votes: 202


Mailing List

Subscribe to a mailing list to have daily news sent directly to your inbox.

  • Breaking News

    Would you like to receive breaking news alerts? Sign up now!

  • News Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily news headlines? Sign up now!

  • Sports Updates

    Would you like to receive our daily sports headlines? Sign up now!

Manage Your Lists