Five former employees of a Mississippi daycare center were criminally charged this week in connection with a disturbing video that went viral earlier this month that showed them scaring small children with a Halloween mask by screaming in the children’s faces because the children were “bad.”
A daycare worker at Lil’ Blessings Childcare and Learning Center in Hamilton, Mississippi, reportedly filmed the incident last month showing the frightened children crying out “mama” or hiding behind shelving units in response to the terror inflicted on them.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s office announced felony and misdemeanor charges against the following five employees:
Sierra McCandless – 3 counts felony child abuse
Oci-Anna Kilburn – 3 counts felony child abuse
Jennifer Newman – 3 counts felony child abuse
Shyenne Mills – 3 counts felony child abuse
Traci Hutson – failure to report abuse by mandatory reporter & and simple assault
“It appears to us they were using the mask for behavior modification,” said Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook. “They can’t use corporal punishment, so we think they were using the mask to try to scare the kids into doing what they were supposed to be doing.”
The videos show a worker instructing the woman in the mask not to target toddlers who had “been good,” The Daily Wire reported. The worker in the mask rants in one child’s face, “Are you being bad? Do I need to take you outside?” and screams as the co-worker laughs, prompting the child to hide his face before crying out, “No.” But the masked woman still screams into his face, threatening, “You better be good.”
Then the masked woman warns another group of children, “Y’all better be ready.” Three children hide behind a shelving unit as the woman enters as the children cry out. The woman then chases one little boy attempting to run away, screaming at him, “Run!”
Another video shows the masked woman screaming at children eating their lunches, zeroing in one little girl and screaming in her face as the children scream in terror.
“We opened an investigation to look into it to see if it was a crime and fit one of our state statutes and if so, which one?” Crook said. “Earlier this week, we met with all of the families that wanted to meet with us considering possible charges and what those charges might me.”
“After that meeting, we had three sets of parents who decided to go to justice court and file charges on some of the daycare workers,” Crook continued. “There were some who were certain they wanted to file felony charges, and the only felony charge that this could possibly fit in was felony child abuse under subsection 1-D, and that dealt with improper supervising of the kids and their neglect and possible substantial mental trauma from what they were going through.”
At the time of the incident, Crook said that he had great compassion for the children that had been impacted because they were unable to “defend themselves.”
“It made me sick at my stomach to think of the terror those kids were enduring,” Crook said. “It still does. My heart and prayers go out to the parents who are dealing with these same emotions right now.”
Hank Berrien contributed to this report.