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IOWA CITY, Iowa - A former Iowa City daycare provider has been permanently barred from providing child care in Iowa after she failed to appear for her civil trial this morning.
Lisa Koplin's name also has been added to the state's child abuse registry based on allegations that a baby was injured in her care and she tried to conceal the injuries instead of get help for them.
"At some point, the child was injured in the home with Lisa, and she didn't seek help or tell the parents," Davina Holladay, a worker with the Iowa Department of Human Services who testified at Koplin's trial on Tuesday, said. "What she did was go to great lengths to cover this up."
A Johnson County judge on Tuesday granted a permanent injunction against Koplin, who failed to appear for the trial and had no one in the courtroom to speak in her defense. Despite an appeal of her name's appearance on the state's child abuse registry, a judge made that final on Monday.
Even though Koplin wasn't present Tuesday, the civil case against her proceeded, and the state called three witnesses to testify against her: the injured child's mother, an Iowa City police detective and Holladay.
"Lisa was dishonest with me, she made inconsistent statements," Holladay said. "And I believe this injury happened at her house."
Despite all the evidence gathered against her, Koplin, 36, never faced criminal charges in the case. Johnson County Assistant County Attorney Patricia Weir said the burden of proof was too great in criminal court, and she doesn't believe jurors would have convicted Koplin without knowing exactly what injured the child.
"We believe it was inflicted and concealed, but we would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn't an accident," Weir said. "We don't know if a toddler could have done that. Proving that it was not accidental in a criminal trial would not have worked."
But a preponderance of the evidence, the lower standard of proof required in civil cases, showed that the child was injured when her mother picked her up Nov. 22, and Koplin did nothing to report the injury or help investigators determine what happened, Weir said.
"We needed an injunction because we couldn't trust her to care for children safely," Weir said.
Kellee Forkenbrock, the mother of the injured child, told The Gazette after the trial that she's glad the case is resolved and she appreciates all the work the County Attorney's Office put into the investigation.
"I'm glad we can find some closure," she said. "Our children are the most important thing."
During her tearful testimony on Tuesday, Forkenbrock recalled picking up her screaming 3-month-old daughter on Nov. 22 from Koplin's daycare, Tattle Tales Daycare at 1009 Sandusky Drive. When she got her daughter home, she noticed dried blood on her face, cheeks and clothing, and – after calling Koplin twice and leaving two messages – she called Mercy Urgent Care.
When her daughter vomited blood, Forkenbrock said her husband called 911 and they took their daughter to Mercy Iowa City Emergency Care. She was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where she was treated in the intensive care unit until Nov. 25 for a laceration to the back of the throat. Doctors said the injury probably was caused by trauma, according to a DHS report and Forkenbrock's testimony.
Forkenbrock testified that Koplin called her back while she was at the hospital. Police had visited Koplin, and she wanted to know why, according to Forkenbrock's testimony.
"She was very defensive, her first question was, 'The police came to my house, why did police come to my house?'" Forkenbrock said, adding that Koplin showed now concern for the fact that the baby was in the emergency room. "She was very rude and it was all me, me, me, and how is this affecting me."
When Iowa City police officer Scott Stevens went to Koplin's house, according to his testimony, she appeared very drunk and was rude and defiant. He said she changed her story several times and eventually admitted that she had been drinking and taking medication prescribed to her husband since the child left her home.
"She was yelling and raising her voice," Stevens testified. "She was rude and loud and abrasive. She lied to me and was deceptive. She showed no remorse or concern for the child."
Stevens said he recorded the conversation and submitted that evidence and transcript into evidence. He said Koplin has never cooperated with the investigation and helped officers determine what injured the baby that day.
Forkenbrock said her daughter is doing well today, and is healthy.
Koplin and her supporters previously have said that information released through the court was incomplete and misleading. Her former attorney, Natalie Cronk, told The Gazette that the mother didn't notice the blood until the baby was out of Koplin's care and someone else could have caused the injuries.
Koplin initially told The Gazette that parents and supporters would be at her trial to testify in her defense. But no one, including an attorney, was present Tuesday morning on behalf of Koplin.
Online court records show that Cronk withdrew as Koplin's attorney in November.
No one answered the phone at a number listed for Koplin on Tuesday afternoon.