NewsCovering Florida


Family of child killed by driver at playground wants max sentence

'We want it to go to trial'
Maleena Valdez
Maleena Valdez
Posted at 6:12 PM, Jul 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 07:56:00-04

ARCADIA, Fla. — Nearly four months after a child was killed by a driver while playing at a daycare's playground, the woman accused of running her down will have a hearing Tuesday.

Maleena Valdez was the little girl who died after investigators said 18-year-old Kiara Morant crashed into a fence at the daycare with a car that she had stolen.

Monday the State Attorney's Office handling Morant's case said they haven't received notice if Morant will be in court or not for her Tuesday hearing. Prosecutors don't expect her to be there since she has an attorney. The state attorney's office added if Morant did decide to appear, it would be via a video if she's in jail.

However, the family of 4-year-old Maleena Valdez said they will be in court.

Maleena Valdez

Monday, the Valdez family told us that they still drive past the daycare and still endure the pain every time passing by.

"Just going back and thinking about it, it just makes me mad…very mad…I’m angry," said Josephine Valdez, Maleena's grandmother. "She was just being her little self-playing like always. She did not see this coming,"

On March 16th, 4-year-old Maleena Valdez was just another little girl, full of life, on the playground at the Imagination Station Learning Center in Arcadia.

It was also Savannah's Birthday and Savannah was on her way to pick up Maleena with cupcakes to celebrate — when the unthinkable happened.

“I just to get that random phone call,” said Savannah Valdez, Maleena's mother.

That call was from the police and the devastating truth, someone hit Maleeena and she was now in critical condition.

"I was just hoping that…she would have made it through," Savannah said. “Definitely the worst day of my life.”

Maleena and Savannah Valdez

That day, investigators say 18-year-old Morant was driving a stolen car without a license that smashed into a fence at the daycare. Her charges include two felony counts of driving without a license causing death and a serious injury, a felony county of grand theft auto.

The public defender's office representing Morant did confirm with us that she received a new misdemeanor charge for fighting.

"We want it to go to trial, that’s what I want, that's we want it to go to trial. She needs to get the maximum," Josephine said.

Valdez family files legal complaint against daycare

The Valdez family also filed a legal complaint against the daycare. They wouldn't speak about it, but court documents show they want $30,000 in damages.

The lawsuit also stated the daycare knew or should have known the location of the playground created an unreasonable risk of injury to children.

The owners of the Imagination Station did not offer a comment to us regarding the complaint.