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Investigation Into Boy's Death at Illegal Day Care Ends With No Answers

By  Danielle Tcholakian and Murray Weiss | October 1, 2015 5:04pm | Updated on October 1, 2015 6:50pm

 A police officer seen outside 69 Greene St., where a 3-month-old Karl Towndrow died in July.
A police officer seen outside 69 Greene St., where a 3-month-old Karl Towndrow died in July.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

SOHO — The city's medical examiner closed the investigation into the death of 3-month-old baby Karl Towndrow after nearly three months without being able to determine how or why he died, DNAinfo New York has learned.

Karl Towndrow died on July 13 at an unlicensed day care center run by Maryellen Strautmanis out of her apartment at 69 Greene St.

Strautmanis told police that she put Karl down for a nap and turned her attention to the 14 other children in her loft, and didn't check on him until 25 minutes later. By the time she did, his lips were blue and he wasn't breathing, she told police.

City regulations require day care workers to check on sleeping infants every 15 minutes.

The M.E.'s official conclusion is that the cause and manner of death are "undetermined," according to a spokeswoman for the M.E.'s office.

That classification is used in cases where the office has exhausted all relevant and available testing and reviewed all available information and is still unable to say with certainty how and why a person died.

A spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney's office said only that their investigation is continuing.

Sources said it is unclear what, if any, impact the M.E.'s conclusion will have on the criminal investigation.

Even if there is no crime, sources said, the infant's death may result in action by the city to tighten its inspection and oversight of the child care industry.

The oversight is as much a problem for the state as it is for the city, however, as the state licenses all home-based day cares.

But the city DOH is responsible for inspecting all day cares, including those licensed by the state.

The agency had in fact received a tip about Strautmanis' operation, however the investigator dispatched to follow up on it claimed to have seen no signs of a day care center while standing outside the building and talking to local businesses. The Department of Investigation and the Manhattan DA launched an investigation into those claims after Karl's death. That investigation is ongoing as well, sources said.

The Department of Health has also also created a special unit tasked with probing day cares.