6-year-old strangled to death by wheelchair harness while bus monitor wore headphones, played on cellphone: Police


A 27-year-old school bus monitor in New Jersey was arrested this week after the 6-year-old girl with special needs she had been hired to protect was choked to death by her safety harness on the way to school.

Amanda Davila was taken into custody on Wednesday and charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter and one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

Somerset County Prosecutor John P. McDonald, Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of County Detectives Francisco Roman Jr., and Franklin Township Public Safety Director Quovella M. Maeweather announced Davila’s arrest in a Thursday press release.

According to the press release, officers with the Franklin Township Police Department at about 9:04 a.m. on Monday, July 17 responded to an emergency call at the Claremont School in the 100 block of Claremont Road regarding a report of an unresponsive 6-year-old girl. Upon arriving at the scene, first responders located the child and began performing CPR.

In an interview with local news outlet News12, the victim’s parents, Wali Williams and Najmah Nash, identified their daughter as Fajr Williams and explained that she had a rare chromosomal disorder called Emanuel syndrome, was nonverbal, and required the use of a wheelchair.

Emergency Medical Services personnel transported the child to a local hospital’s intensive care unit where doctors pronounced her dead. Detectives from the Franklin Township Police Department along with detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit were dispatched to the scene and took over the case.

Investigators say they learned the victim was attending the school’s extended year program and was transported to and from the facility in a transit school bus. Upon entering the bus on the morning of July 17, the victim’s wheelchair was secured in the rear of the bus with a four-point harness by Davila, who was the monitor assigned to that particular bus, prosecutors say.

“During the transport, a series of bumps in the road caused the 6-year-old to slump in her wheelchair seat making the 4-point harness which secured her to the chair to become tight around her neck ultimately blocking her airway,” the release states. “During the ride, the school bus monitor, Amanda Davila was seated towards the front of the bus and was utilizing a cellular telephone while wearing ear bud headphone devices in both ears. The investigation revealed that this was in violation of policies and procedures.”

Fajr’s parents said that news of their daughter’s death was devastating, particularly the thought of her slowly suffocating and hoping for someone to step in and help.

“They need to know that when they take that job, they have lives in their hands,” her father told News12. “I am picturing her fighting. She can’t speak. She can’t defend herself. She can’t take the things off her neck.”

“I pray these people weren’t playing on their phones while my daughter is back there fighting for her life,” he added.

The victim’s mother said there is video from onboard the bus, but she couldn’t bring herself to watch it yet.

The bus company, Montauk Transit Services, employed new bus drivers and monitors for the school’s extended summer program, New York ABC affiliate WABC reported. The company sent the following statement to Law&Crime:

“We at Montauk Transit are all devastated by the loss of Faja. We all extend our deepest condolences to the family and are grieving as a Company. All of our employees know that the safety of children we transport is our top priority, which is why we are fully engaged in the law enforcement investigation and support any punishment that the justice system determines appropriate for the bus monitor who has been arrested.”

Davila was booked into the Somerset County Jail and is currently scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.


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