PORTAGE, MI – A parent’s worst nightmare. In an unfortunate blend of technology and evil, parents in Michigan saw their child sexually assaulted in a livestream video feed by a preschool daycare worker.
The school runs a steady livestream of activity inside the preschool and daycare, and parents were watching as the alleged acts occurred.
Police say 19-year-old Aaron Joe Bryant from Hartford, Michigan was arraigned November 2nd in Kalamazoo County District Court. He was charged with second-degree criminal-sexual conduct.
He’d been arrested the previous week just after the video was seen and the horrible act confirmed. Aaron Bryant had worked at Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool for about a year.
A man was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a child at a preschool in Portage, Michigan. https://t.co/9OmHSWOKpr
— Local 12/WKRC-TV (@Local12) November 3, 2020
On Wednesday, AppleTree & Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool released a statement about the arrest:
“The safety of the children in our care is our utmost priority. That is why when we learned of the incident involving Mr. Bryant, he was immediately put on administration leave on June 18, 2020 and terminated on July 17, 2020 upon completion of the initial investigation. He had no further contact with any children in our facilities.
We have worked closely with local and state authorities throughout their investigation. Additionally, we have reviewed our hiring and internal safety and operational protocols and, while they meet the highest standards in the industry, all team members are being trained in a rigorous new safety and reporting initiative.
We treat all the children in our care as if they are our own, so we were as shocked and distraught by this incident as anyone. We are deeply sorry for what the family involved has gone through. We are in communication with our team members and families about this issue and will provide access to resources, such as counseling, for those who need additional support.”
Officials at the school say all of AppleTree & Gilden Woods classrooms are equipped with cameras that provide a live feed only to parents who have children enrolled at these facilities. They stressed that the system is password protected and that the company uses it as an additional safety feature in their schools.
School officials said the feeds from the cameras are not viewable to the public and are not recorded, and stress that parents are only able to view the room where their child is enrolled.
In a similar case, but one not transmitted on video, a 3-year-old boy was sexually assaulted at his daycare by a worker.
The alleged acts occurred at Childcare Network in Benton, Arkansas and were investigated after his mother noted their son’s changed behavior that started about a month ago:
“He started throwing fits. He started screaming and crying and he’s always slept in his own bed and he wouldn’t sleep in his bed anymore and he’s never wet the bed. He’s been potty trained for a year so he started wetting the bed.”
The mother explained that his teacher was touching him inappropriately.
“Well first I wanted to vomit. My stomach was sick the rest of the day. I never in a million years thought it would happen to my kid and at a daycare with a teacher where I’m supposed to be trusting my kid there while I work to provide for him.”
The woman went on to explain that she immediately contacted Benton Police. She found through talking with others that several other parents had been sexually assaulted or touched inappropriately. One mother who wanted to remain anonymous explained:
“I did not know I was capable of feeling that much anger and sadness and frustration at the same time especially when I trusted them with my kids.”
She related that she took both her 3- and 4-year-old girls to Arkansas Children’s Hospital to get them checked out. She said they told her there was evidence her children had been sexually assaulted.
“We made a report with the police department and DHS, we went to the advocacy center where it was confirmed.”
The Arkansas Department of Human Services confirmed that they have opened a licensing investigation into Childcare Network of Benton. A spokesperson related that the facility had reported the allegations, confirming the parent’s reports, and that an employee was suspended.
The mother of the 3-year-old boy explained that she wanted to see the teacher prosecuted, but would ensure mental health care for her son in the meantime:
“I’m going to get him into therapy and just do the best I can to make him feel safe and just try and rebuild that trust that was broken.”
#BREAKING The Department of Human Services says they have opened a licensing investigation into Childcare Network of Benton. They say the facility self-reported and the employee in question has been sent home. https://t.co/lxzQov1VEU
— Claire Kreuz (@ClaireKreuz_4) October 21, 2020
In Lincoln, Nebraska, charges were increased for a man from 4 counts to 6 counts of sexual assault of a child. 27-year-old Titus Miller had already been sentenced to 100 years in prison for the original 4 counts when the other 2 were added last week.
There are both state and federal cases involving Miller. In the state case, Miller pled guilty to 5 counts of production of child pornography in connection to 17 pornographic videos he made of children between the ages of 4 and 6. He made the videos while working as a night supervisor at Playful Painters Child Care between August and October 2019. In the federal case, since it involved transmitting child pornography across state lines, Miller was charged with sending some of the videos to a man who was arrested in Alabama, and then to FBI agents working undercover.
Titus J. Miller, age 27, of Lincoln, Nebraska pleaded guilty on Wednesday to five counts of production of child pornography.https://t.co/0YX6vocrYN
— NTV News (@NTVNEWS) July 16, 2020
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Clown performer arrested for sexually abusing children in Los Angeles – police searching for more victims
September 17, 2020
LOS ANGELES, CA –The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office received reports of a clown who had been sexually abusing at least one child.
The Special Victims Bureau for the Sheriff’s Office investigated and was able to make the arrest of the accused sexual predator.
— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) September 16, 2020
The Sheriff’s Office received the reports which alleged that Florentino Gonzalez Penaloza, a clown performer, had allegedly committed several sex acts on a child under 10 years of age.
Penaloza, who worked part-time for the Payazos Party Supplies in East Los Angeles was said to be a family friend.
Penaloza is alleged to have been sexually molested by the young girl for the past four years, starting in 2016.
Penaloza, who goes by the name Ponponio while working as a clown, was arrested on September 6th by the Special Victims Bureau of the Sheriff’s Office and criminally charged with Sex Acts with a Child Under 10 Years of Age.
Penaloza is currently being held in jail and was assigned a bond of $950,000. Police said:
“Based on the nature of the allegations, along with the suspect’s affiliation with children’s entertainment, detectives believe there may be additional unidentified victims. Detectives are seeking the public’s help in identifying any such victims.”
Sexual abuse of any person is an unfathomable event, but even more so when it is a child. HealthyPlace provides some insight on how to spot sexual abuse behaviors from people that may already be in the life of the child.
For instance, they advise that an offender most likely try to find ways to be access the child without anyone else around. They advise that any adult looking for extended times should raise suspicion.
In addition, they advise to look out for people who:
- Seem overly interested in the child or become fixated on the child
- Create opportunities to be alone with the child
- Give special privileges to a child (rides to and from practices, etc.)
- Befriending a family and showing more interest in building a relationship with the child than with adults
- Displaying favoritism towards one child within a family
- Finding opportunities to buy a child gifts
- Catering to the interests of the child, so a child or the parent initiates the contact
Now, as the site warns, not one of these examples in and of themselves mean that a person may be a predator, however, a prudent person would certainly be leery. HealthyPlace also suggests that a parent teaches their child how to be safe and create an environment where he or she feels they can talk about anything bad that has happened to them.
HealthyPlace also suggests the following to help keep your child safe from sexual predators:
- Be watchful – always be on the lookout for situations or behaviors that seem dangerous or suspicious. Always know where your child is.
- Monitor online activities – know what you child does online to prevent access by online child predators.
- Check policies – check child protection policies at organizations that interact with your child. For example, what is the policy on screening the people that coach soccer? Does the organization check the sex offender registry?
- Be with the child – accompany the child to public places like washrooms, stores and activities.
- Communicate – be sure the child understands that he (or she) can tell you anything, even if he is afraid.
- Rehearse – use “what if” scenarios to be sure a child knows what to do if a questionable situation arises. For example, “what would you do if you played a game with an adult that made you feel uncomfortable?” or, “what would you do if someone touched your private parts?”
- Teach assertiveness – teach a child how to stand up to a child in an assertive manner. Make sure a child understands that being a good child doesn’t mean just “blind obedience” to whatever any adult says.
- Teach accurate names – label the body parts using the correct terms and use accurate names for sex acts as developmentally appropriate. Make sure the child knows that it’s not OK for someone to touch his private parts.
- Model appropriate behavior – show a child what a healthy relationship between an adult and child should look like. Adults are not interested in child companionship and friendship. Children are friends with other children and adults are friends with adults.
In the meantime, just last week the FBI went public asking for the public’s help to identify victims of a high school coach in Topeka, Kansas. His name is Jeffrey Pierce.
Pierce is a 40-year-old former teacher, and boys basketball coach at Topeka’s Seaman High School.
He has one count of possessing child pornography which is alleged to have occurred Sept. 2, 2020. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister. Currently, he is in federal prison.
#Breaking Tonight: FBI Kansas City is seeking the public's help in identifying victims of Jeffrey Pierce. If you believe you or your child might be a victim, please contact the FBI at the email address: [email protected] pic.twitter.com/U3kg62EoCd
— FBI Kansas City (@FBIKansasCity) September 3, 2020
He used social media, where he posed to be a teenage girl on social networking programs like Instagram, Snapchat, KiK, and Grinder.
Below is a list of names he used:
- Addie Strode
- Addison Strode
- jp131780 (Addilyn)
- Jordan_reh (Kennedy)
- Kennedy Lacrone
- Jordy Rey Rey
- jacy townsend
- jordyreyrey (Addie Strode) (Kennedy)
Once he contacted his prey, he would engage with them, and then solicit explicit photos or videos from the juvenile victims according to the FBI in Kansas.
It’s the typical approach of any alleged pedophile.
When the school found out about the arrest, and the investigation, the district immediately agreed to work with the FBI.
Obviously, Pierce has been fired. More on that below.
“We’re very crushed and devastated to learn of what’s happened.”
Pierce started his teaching career with the The Auburn-Washburn School District at Washburn Rural High School and Middle School coaching cross country, boys basketball and track.
He taught U.S. History for nine years, taught freshman World History and coached JV boys basketball with the Seaman School District. The school said he had a wife and two daughters.
I'm at today's @SeamanSchools special board meeting, where the board will vote on a resolution to fire Jeffrey Pierce, the high school assistant coach accused of posing as a teenage girl to lure other teenagers to send him explicit photos. Follow along as I cover for @CJOnline. pic.twitter.com/SuAEDhvQ6V
— Rafael Garcia (@byRafaelGarcia) September 4, 2020
“We were made aware of this arrest at around 10:30 am on Wednesday morning. We are cooperating and working closely with the FBI to provide our complete support in every way possible. Our first concern right now is for the well-being of victims who were impacted by this case and this news.”
Seaman High School said the FBI will release contact information related to the case, and contact information for victim services. The counseling services are provided at the school for staff and students impacted by the arrest since this came as quite a shock.
Dr. Noble continued:
“The circumstances that led us here impact all of us,” said Noble, “Our kids, our staff, our community, perhaps beyond, but especially our kids. Our hearts and minds are with them right now as we try to support them.”
Both the Seaman School District and Auburn-Washburn School District were notified that Topeka area students were potential victims related to the arrest of Pierce. The staff members are providing services necessary to support impacted students.
The FBI also included the follow resources in its press release:
- FBI Help for Victims of Crime Brochure
- Caring for Kids: What Parents Need to Know About Sexual Abuse
- Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- American Psychological Association Resources on Sexual Abuse
- Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN)
- National Center for Victims of Crime
In a special meeting Friday the USD 345 Board of Education unanimously voted to fire Pierce.
They discovered and cited items from his district issued computer which validated their decision. He apparently attempted to access inappropriate websites, thereby, violating their policy.
They said items were recovered from his district issued computer that showed his attempts to access inappropriate websites that violate their policy. They also cited his behavior as being unacceptable and jeopardized the health and safety of school aged children.
He plead not guilty.
If convicted, Pierce could face no less than 15 years and no more than 30 years in federal prison on each production count and up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the possession count.
Anyone who believes they or their child may be a victim is asked to contact the FBI at [email protected]
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