ELYRIA — Zach Flynn recounted Wednesday how he knelt next to his 22-month-old daughter, held her hand and talked to her as doctors, nurses and paramedics performed CPR and chest compressions on her seconds before a doctor pronounced the child dead.
Flynn testified Wednesday in the opening day of the bench trial of Elizabeth Zenda, of Wellington, who was babysitting his daughter, Annie Flynn, the morning of Oct. 5, 2016, when Annie drowned in a pool. Zenda, 49, faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangering in connection with the incident.
“While they were working on her, they had me kneel down next to the bed and hold her hand for a little while and they said, ‘Just keep talking to her,’” Zach Flynn said. “A couple minutes went by, and the doctor said to me, ‘It’s not looking good, Dad.’ I remember someone kept touching me and I kept getting mad. Everyone is talking negative all of a sudden. The doctor then said, ‘I’m sorry Dad; she didn’t make it.’ Even while that’s going on, the first responders are still working on her, looking at the doctor, asking him if that’s really what the call is going to be.
“That’s when I realized my daughter was gone.”
According to testimony, Zach Flynn had dropped off Annie about 7 a.m. the morning of the incident at Zenda’s home, where she operated an in-home day care. In addition to Annie, Zenda also was watching 3-year-old Gavin Flynn and 21-month-old Jaxon Flynn, both Annie’s cousins.
Later in the morning, Zenda’s future daughter-in-law, Tanya Zenda, who lived in the other half of Elizabeth Zenda’s duplex home at 17853 West Road in Pittsfield Township, came over with her son, 2-year-old Danny, according to testimony of Tanya Zenda.
Danny went out into the backyard of the home to play with the three Flynn children, while Elizabeth Zenda sent instant messages to her mother and talked with her future-daughter-in-law.
Tanya Zenda testified that Elizabeth Zenda looked out a sliding glass door to check on the children multiple times during their conversation. When the conversation changed to wedding table centerpiece decorations on the social media site Pinterest for the coming wedding, Tanya said there was a seven-to-eight-minute period where the children were unattended.
It was after that when Danny came in and his lower half, along with the bottom of his shirt, was soaked, which concerned both women, Tanya Zenda said.
Tanya Zenda went outside and asked 3-year-old Gavin where Annie and Jaxon were. He pointed to the pool, Tanya Zenda said. She ran up the stairs to the pool and found the two children “floating face-down in the pool.”
The children were pulled from the water, 911 was called and the Zendas began administering CPR until first responders arrived. They were then taken to Mercy Allen Hospital in Oberlin, where Annie was pronounced dead. Jaxon was flown to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.
In her opening statement, Assistant County Prosecutor Laura Dezort said an investigation into the drowning led to charges being filed against Elizabeth Zenda.
“What the investigation determined is that the defendant knew that Annie loved to play on the steps of that pool,” Dezort said. “She loved playing on them. She also knew Annie could go underneath the gate.”
Along the side of the 4-foot-tall, above-ground pool was a deck with stairs leading up to it in the backyard, according testimony. While there was a gate blocking the access to the deck at the top of the stairs, there was a 7-inch gap underneath the gate.
Tanya Zenda said a plastic baby gate had been leaned against the gate to prevent Elizabeth Zenda’s two dachshunds from getting past the gate. Tanya Zenda was asked if the gate also was there to prevent the children Elizabeth Zenda watched from accessing the pool.
“I’m sure it was also another reason behind it,” Tanya Zenda said. “The dogs, I’m sure, were the first, and then the children.”
When the Zendas found the children floating in the pool, Tanya Zenda said the plastic baby gate had been knocked over and was lying on the deck. She said a chair that was usually used to secure the gate in place wasn’t there.
Elizabeth Zenda’s defense attorney, Douglas Merrill, said the whole incident was an accident, and his client was following the same routine she always used when watching the children.
“Tragedy is a friend of no one,” Merrill said. “The three families that have been impacted here no doubt wish they could go back in time prior to Oct. 5. They are left with ‘what ifs?’ emotions and anger. They are left with a lot more questions than answers.”
During his testimony, Zach Flynn said he had considered pulling Annie out from Elizabeth Zenda’s care after his daughter had cut her finger to the bone and had to be put under in order for it to be fixed. He also said Annie was known to be a climber and get into things, even if she’d been disciplined and told to not do it.
Tiana Resor, the mother of Jaxon, testified that her son was an “escape artist.” She said she’d shared a video of Jaxon climbing over a gate, unlocking it, swinging it open and then climbing down with Elizabeth Zenda.
While Jaxon was eventually released from the hospital, Resor said he’s still hasn’t fully recovered and suffered brain damage from the incident, which has caused a delay in his speech and ability to put sentences together.
Testimony in the trial will resume at 9 a.m. this morning before Judge James Miraldi.