Granddad warns parents after baby's death at Vt. day care

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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WWAY) A North Carolina grandfather is speaking out after his granddaughter died at a Vermont day care.

You may remember the case of 6-month-old Harper Rose Briar. She died in January. Briar was at a Rutland day care run by Stacey Vaillancourt. Police say Vaillancourt fed the baby Benadryl.

Vaillancourt pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and cruelty to a child.

Now, the baby's grandfather, Larry Briar, is speaking out with a warning to other parents. Hannah Patrick of our affiliate in Wilmington, North Carolina, spoke with Briar about what happened.

"My son called my wife and said, 'We lost our princess,'" Larry Briar said.

Briar, a retired marine from Camp Lejeune, says his son, Blake, and his wife, Marissa, met at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW).

"He went to UNC Pembroke and she went to UNCW and their best man introduced them," Briar said.

Blake and Marissa later moved to Vermont before Marrisa gave birth to their child on July 24, 2018. Six months later, they started looking for child care.

"It's not like it is in Charlotte where I live in Waxhaw where every corner is a day care; 99.9 percent of them are all from a home," Briar said.

The couple took their baby, Harper Rose, to Stacey Vaillancourt's home day care. But on the third day, the couple received an alarming text: "Baby not breathing. Go straight to the hospital."

Harper, who was just 6 months old, died that day. Two months later, Briar says his son and daughter-in-law discovered what happened.

"They told them it was a homicide," Briar said. "Harper was given a high dose of Benadryl."

Vaillancourt was charged with manslaughter and cruelty to a child. The day she pleaded not guilty, dozens of Briar's family members showed up in court.

"We all wore pink shirts, probably had about 40 family members, it says justice for Harper Rose," Briar said.

Briar says there's nothing he can do to bring back his granddaughter or ease the pain for the child's parents.

"As a parent, you know, we can't fix this," Briar said. "There is nothing I can say to my son or my daughter-in-law to make this better."

Nevertheless, Briar says he's committed to continuing to fight for justice.

"She [Stacey Vaillancourt] needs to be held accountable," he said.

He also plans to advocate for stricter guidelines for every single state.

"Since 2017, I found 22 cases across the United States," he said.

Ultimately, Briar says he doesn't want other parents to suffer a loss like his family did.

"I don't want to see another child die from this," he said.

The autopsy report noted that diphenhydramine should not be used on infants without an order from a physician. Investigators say there was no physician's order and that Vaillancourt was the only person to provide care to the child before Harper Rose's death on Jan. 24. Since her death, the facility has been shut down.