Chief Assistant District Attorney C.J. Robinson of the 19th Judicial Circuit said the abuse suffered by at least seven children under the age of 2 at the hands of three former workers at a day care run by Journey Church of the River Region in Prattville, Alabama, was “like something out of a horror story."
"You look at this and it's a sickening level of abuse," Robinson said at a press conference Monday, as reported by The Montgomery Advertiser.
The former workers — Alice Sorrells, Leah Livingston and Susan Baker, who previously worked for East Memorial Baptist Church's day care center before it closed in December — have all been charged with one count each of felony child abuse and failure to report child abuse as a court-mandated reporter.
The investigation of the abuse allegedly meted out to the children began after a potential employee who was shadowing the former day care workers witnessed inappropriate behavior and reported it to the director of the day care, who alerted Prattville police.
"The safety and well-being of our children is and remains our top priority," LeeAnn Manning, a spokeswoman for the church, told The Montgomery Advertiser. "Immediately upon our discovery of misconduct, we terminated all 3 three individuals. We promptly contacted law enforcement as well as all state entities to which we report, and we have been fully cooperating and working together with law enforcement and its investigators.”
Manning further noted that the church also met with parents of the abused children.
“We have been and continue to pray for the families involved,” she said.
Robinson confirmed that both leaders of the church and the day care center have been cooperative with law enforcement.
"As soon as there were allegations of abuse they contacted Prattville police. They have done everything you would expect to assist in the investigation,” he said.
Robinson said when the abuse was first reported to the director of the day care, they pulled footage from the last 30 days. They claim to have found “multiple incidents of child abuse’’ going back to Feb. 22, according to AL.com. The videos showed shoving and striking of the children though none of them suffered serious physical injuries as a result.
“These are non-talking children, most of these are non-walking children, so they can’t go home and say so and so hurt me,’’ Robinson said. “We are relying solely on the footage we have.”
Robinson further noted that he intends to call a special grand jury later this month and anticipates up to 40 counts of felony child abuse between the three suspects.
“I cried. I hated it for these children. No child should go through that,’’ Robinson said about the emotions he experienced while watching footage of the abuse.
“And then immediately after that, I was enraged,” he added. “Since turning these people over to the parents of these children is not an option based off the oath I’ve sworn, then my job is to hold them accountable.”