Daycare teacher sentenced to 17 years for smothering toddler to death

Ina Skivenko also ordered to pay NIS 120,000 damages to parents of Yasmin Vinta

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ina Skivenko, a kindergarten teacher suspected of causing the death of 18-month-old Yasmin Vinta at a kindergarten in Petah Tikva, is brought for a court hearing at a Petah Tikva court on June 3, 2018. (Roy Alima/Flahs90)
Ina Skivenko, a kindergarten teacher suspected of causing the death of 18-month-old Yasmin Vinta at a kindergarten in Petah Tikva, is brought for a court hearing at a Petah Tikva court on June 3, 2018. (Roy Alima/Flahs90)

A daycare teacher was sentenced to 17 years in prison on Sunday for smothering to death Yasmin Vinta, an 18-month-old girl who was under her care, last year.

In addition to time behind bars, the Lod District Court also gave Ina Skivenko, 24, an 18-month suspended sentence and ordered her to pay NIS 120,000 ($33,750) to Vinta’s parents. She was convicted under a plea bargain in which she also admitted to assaulting nine other children.

Vinta’s parents, Dorina and Vladimir, were at the courthouse for the sentencing.

“Nothing can heal the wounds,” the mother said.

“Seventeen years is not enough for me, for my husband, for my family, but I am a little bit quiet in my heart because I know she is in the prison and she will be there all her life and she will suffer,” Dorina, who is originally from Moldova, told reporters in English.

“Seventeen years is not a good decision, she should have gotten more, because she broke our hearts,” Vladimir said.

The parents of the late toddler Yasmin Vinta, Dorina and Vladimir, hold her picture on June 7, 2018, in front of the kindergarten where she was found dead in Petah Tikva. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

In June 2018 Skivenko was indicted for manslaughter in the death of Vinta at a daycare center in Petah Tikva. According to court papers, Skivenko sat on the toddler, who suffocated and died the previous month. She was also accused of abusing other babies by slamming them to the floor, throwing them on chairs, kicking them or shaking them.

The state prosecution said in a statement that “the many years given to the accused are an expression of the gravity with which the legal system regards violence by caretakers against helpless minors who are in their charge.

“There is no punishment in the law book severe enough for the terrible act of a baby killed by her carer, who is supposed to protect her welfare and devotedly care for her,” the National Council for the Child said in a statement.

Before the sentencing, the attorney for the Vinta family, Jacob Shklar, said he had asked that a gag order against publishing security camera video of the incident be lifted.

However, Channel 12 TV news reported a defense attorney urged for that gag to remain out of consideration for the safety of the defendant’s family. The attorney pointed to the torching last week of the home of Carmel Mauda, another daycare attendant charged with physically abusing young children in a separate case.

Separately Sunday, three daycare workers in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa in were questioned under caution on suspicion of abusing children in their care.

Firefighters work to extinguish blaze at the home of Carmel Mauda in the central city of Rosh Ha’ayin on July 6, 2019. (Israel Police)

Mauda, whose apartment in Rosh Ha’ayin was mostly destroyed in the arson attack, was arrested in June. Security camera footage showed her at the daycare center abusing nearly a dozen children as young as three months old. Police released footage of the abuse earlier this month, igniting widespread anger against her and protests outside her home.

Thousands took to the streets across the country, calling for increased oversight of daycare facilities, many of which are private and do not require licensing.

A day after the mass protests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the Education Ministry would take full responsibility for all state-funded preschool daycare centers.

A bill requiring all childcare centers and nurseries to have security cameras had been debated and delayed for years before finally being passed by the Knesset in December last year. According to the new law, from September 2020 all daycare centers, nurseries and rehabilitation centers will need to install security cameras, unless 70 percent of the parents object.

All activities inside the centers and the yards outside will be recorded, without sound, on closed-circuit systems. The footage will only be accessed by authorities if there is a suspicion that an offense has been committed. Improper distribution of images will carry a sentence of up to six months in prison.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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