Bucks County parents push for car seat safety after daughter's death

Victoria Watson was 22 days away from her first birthday when she died while sleeping in her car seat.

Maggie Kent Image
Thursday, July 28, 2022
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The infant's heartbroken parents want to help other parents avoid the same scenario that claimed the life of their daughter.

UPPER SOUTHAMPTON TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A former Bucks County babysitter is now in prison after an 11-month-old girl in her care died while in her care nearly three years ago.

Victoria Watson was 22 days away from her first birthday when she died while sleeping in her car seat. Now, her parents are fighting to prevent this nightmare from happening again.

The Watson family is missing a piece. There are signs of Victoria everywhere around the house -- little ladybugs representing a baby girl no longer here.

"She just made you feel like you were at peace and the center of the world," said her mom, Marita.

The family's world came crashing in on August 27, 2019.

The 11-month-old girl was in the care of her babysitter, Lauren Landgrebe, when she was placed in the car seat to sleep. The car seat was set on the dining room table and left unattended for hours.

"She slid down and the buckle was at the base of her neck," said Victoria's father, Michael.

Prosecutors say the babysitter went outside by the pool.

"She was given a bottle and a towel was propped up (under her neck), and she was left unattended for several hours," he said.

Michael Watson got the call that day that his daughter wouldn't wake up.

"When I arrived to the house there was so much police activity and something you never forget seeing," recalled Michael Watson. "As I approached the house, a detective came out and said they took Victoria to the hospital. But I could see the look on their face that it wasn't good."

Victoria died of asphyxiation. The top buckle of her car seat was secure, but the bottom buckle was never attached. The car seat was at the wrong angle without being placed in the proper base.

Landgrebe was sentenced to one to two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter, endangering the welfare of a child, operating an illegal daycare and evidence tampering.

SEE ALSO: Bucks woman sentenced to jail time in asphyxiation death of 11-month-old baby at unlicensed day care

Investigators say Landgrebe took a photo of Victoria while she sleeping in the car seat, and deleted it when her husband noticed Victoria was not breathing.

Now, Victoria's parents are fighting to change sentencing guidelines.

"For involuntary manslaughter, the range is 9 to 16 months," said Marita Watson. "We want to, with the legislators, make it a more severe penalty so that it is a deterrent for people."

Investigators found out that the babysitter would often use the car seat to put kids down for a nap while a pack-and-play was available in the same room.

"Every time she did this, it was a ticking time bomb. It could have happened at any point. Unfortunately, she made a series of bad decisions on that particular day in August, in addition to the ones she routinely made, and all of this was unbeknownst to us," said Marita Watson.

The Watsons want to better educate parents and caregivers on car seat safety, and pressure manufacturers to change buckle designs to ensure this can not happen again.

"You can do it the wrong way. You shouldn't be allowed to do it the wrong way," said Michael Watson.

"We had so many hopes and dreams for Victoria and the woman she would become," said her mother.

Now their hope is to prevent the heartbreak they feel. After a lengthy three-year legal process, they are turning their efforts to advocacy.

Victoria's parents say standardized education and training, starting in hospital labor wards, can go a long way to help.