Toddlers Nearly Drown at O.C. Baby-Sitter’s

Times Staff Writer

Three toddlers were in critical condition Thursday night after nearly drowning when they fell into a pool at a North Tustin home where they were under the care of a baby-sitter.

Two of the children, Jonathon Derek Weston, 22 months, of North Tustin and Melissa Dianne Polsfoot, 19 months, of Tustin, were rushed late Thursday to United Western Medical Center-Santa Ana.

The third child, Arthur Matthew Griese, 14 months, of Orange, was taken to Chapman General Hospital in Orange, where his condition was stabilized, and later transferred to nearby Childrens Hospital of Orange County, where he too was in critical condition in the intensive care ward.

Doctors said they would know within 72 hours whether Melissa and Jonathon suffered brain damage.


Authorities immediately launched an investigation into the baby-sitting arrangement operating at the home of Orvel Brooks in the 13000 block of Old Foothill Boulevard, in the unincorporated area adjacent to Orange.

Karen Rater, a social worker for the Orange County Department of Social Services, joined sheriff’s deputies in the investigation but said it had not been determined if Brooks or a member of his family had, or needed, a license to care for the children.

One unidentified mother arrived at the house and left distraught, asking herself: “How did he get in the pool? There was a 6-foot fence!”

There was little information as to what happened at the large, country home surrounded by a neat white fence and nestled in the Cowan Heights foothills. Police were trying to determine if the gate leading to the pool was left open, how the three children fell into the pool and how long they were there before Brooks arrived to pull them out.


Lt. Richard Olson, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman, said paramedics responded to a “near drowning” report at the house at 3:30 p.m. Neighbors said that when paramedics arrived, Brooks was giving one of the children mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“When he (Brooks) found the kids in the pool, he went in and pulled them out and called 911,” Olson said.

It was not immediately known if the children were conscious when they were taken to the hospitals.

“We understand the father and an 18-year-old daughter were here at the time,” Olson said. “That’s all I am comfortable in releasing right now. We’re trying to be very careful with the investigation. Even though the kids are alive at this time, should something happen it could change the complexion of the case.”

While police questioned Orvel Brooks, his wife Diane and a daughter, a man who had apparently left his infant son in the Brooks’ care drove up, entered the house and then left with his boy sleeping in his arms. He declined to talk with reporters.

At Childrens Hospital, the parents and friends of Arthur Griese gathered in a small conference room adjacent to the main waiting room. The boy’s father, wearing khaki shorts and a navy T-shirt, paced the floor, moving between the conference room and the closed door of the pediatric intensive care unit. There, he stood silently and stared into the ward where his son was being treated.

The families of Melissa Polsfoot and Jonathon Weston held similar vigils at United Western Medical Center. Melissa’s father, Timothy Polsfoot, a systems engineer, said his daughter had been going to the Brooks home for day care for the past year, but he declined to discuss the tragedy.

“It’s too painful to talk about,” he said.


Times staff writers Tyler Chin, Lucille Renwick, Michael Cicchese and Nancy Wride contributed to this story.