Lillie Jonnette Adams, accused of striking a toddler with a broom handle, makes an initial court appearance on Feb. 24, 2017. Maricopa County Superior Court
Owner, director of center now face misdemeanor charge in Municipal Court.
Charges have been reduced in a Feb. 17 incident in which police say a 21-month old boy was twice struck with a broom handle and suffered a four-inch cut across his face at a Phoenix day-care facility, court records show.
Police in February arrested 37-year-old Lillie Adams on suspicion of child abuse, saying footage from day-care cameras showed her hitting the boy at the Brighter Angels Learning Center at 7227 S. Central Ave.
According to court records, Adams was sweeping in a classroom of 10 children between 1 and 2 years old.
As she was cleaning, the child pushed over a plastic kitchen set, prompting him and other children to climb on it, the records said.
The document said Adams stopped sweeping and moved to stand the kitchen set back up when the child ran underneath a table where Adams had been sweeping.
Adams went back to the table and “used the broom to push the victim towards the side of the table,” court documents said.
According to the record, the child didn’t move and Adams swung the broom at the child, striking him twice in the face.
The child started crying, court documents said, and Adams pulled the child by his arm from underneath the table to stand him up.
That’s when Adams noticed the child was bleeding, according to court records, and she took him to a corner of the room and placed a napkin over his head.
Adams initially faced a charge of child abuse, a Class 4 felony, court records show. Records show that was reduced to a charge of aggravated assault against a minor, a lesser, Class 6 felony, by the grand jury that indicted her on March 7.
Day-care owner, director also arrested
Police also arrested 51-year-old Ruben Sandoval, the center’s owner, and 26-year-old Perla Denise Sierra Duarte, the center’s director, in connection with allegations of hindering prosecution and failure to report child abuse.
While executing a search warrant of the facility on Feb. 24, Sandoval admitted to officers he had seen the video depicting the incident but did not report it to authorities, according to court documents.
Duarte was interviewed the same day and admitted to knowing that what she witnessed Adams doing to the child on Feb. 17 was a crime and that police should have been called but that she didn’t contact authorities because “she did not want the employee (Adams) to get in trouble,” records said.
Duarte said she had given the child’s parent a signed note to give to medical personnel the previous day stating that the boy had tripped and hit his head on a table, court records said.
Duarte admitted to signing the letter knowing it was a false statement but stated that she did so under Sandoval’s direction, according to the records.
She said she contacted Sandoval the day of the event and asked for direction on what to do, adding that Sandoval arrived at the center, viewed the video and told her not to contact authorities, court records said.
Duarte said Sandoval advised her to call the incident an accident in the letter to the parent, records said.
Duarte said a witness wrote the letter to the parents, which was reviewed over the phone by Sandoval, records said.
The document said the witness acknowledged that Sandoval and Duarte told him what to say in the letter.
Class 6 felony charges against Sandoval and Duarte for failure to report neglect of a minor were dismissed by prosecutors in Maricopa County Superior Court in March, records show.
Sandoval and Duarte each face a Class 1 misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse, according to Phoenix Municipal Court documents.
Sandoval and Duarte each have entered not-guilty pleas through their attorneys, according to Municipal Court documents.
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Boy’s mother goes to police
After the incident, the child was taken to Phoenix Children’s Hospital by his mother and the four-inch cut was glued shut, court documents said. The boy’s mother returned to the center after taking her son for treatment and asked to see video of the room at the time of the accident. She was told she could not see the video. According to court documents released in February, Duarte gave the mother a letter from the school stating that the child had “tripped over a toy and bumped his head on a table.”
The mother then went to the police to “find out what really happened,” according to records, prompting police to view the video and arrest Adams.
Adams told police in February that she was sweeping up cereal that a group of 1- and 2-year-olds had spilled when the boy crawled under a table where she was trying to clean, according to court documents.
Adams asked the boy to move twice, and when he refused, she hit him but told police “she did not believe she hit him that hard,” according to documents.
She said she took the boy across the room and put a wet paper towel on his head, pressing the intercom for the center’s director.
Adams said around 45 minutes later, she was called into the office where Duarte told her to sign a resignation later and “not to talk to anyone about this, including the police,” according to court documents.
Adams’ trial is set to begin in August, according to court records.
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