BATAVIA, Ohio -- A judge convicted a former day care employee of child endangerment Tuesday and sentenced her to two years' probation.
She's the second person working for Rainbow Child Care to be found guilty of a crime against a child in the past two years.
Laura Macias was accused of using "cruel, harsh, unusual or extreme techniques" on a child at Rainbow Child Care in Pierce Township, according to a state report. The company said she was fired as soon as management learned about the alleged abuse.
Macias pleaded not guilty earlier this summer, but changed her plea Tuesday to no contest.
Municipal Court Judge Jesse Kramig found her guilty and sentenced her to 160 days in jail, of them suspended. If she violates the terms of her probation over the next two years, she'll need to serve the jail term.
Macias also must complete 40 hours of community service in the next 30 days and pay a $250 fine, as well as court costs.
WCPO has been unable to reach her attorney for comment.
The case began when Jessica Wilson's 5-year-old son told her "the teacher with the nails" made dark-red marks on his arms and neck May 2. Wilson's son also had bruising on his rib cage and right upper leg as well as scratches on the bottom of his right leg.
Wilson told police Rainbow called her to claim her son had been scratching himself all day.
According to a Pierce Township police report, Danielle Corbin, regional manager of Rainbow Child Care, told Wilson that Macias said her son was "throwing a tantrum on the playground" and had tripped over her foot. Macias told Corbin she grabbed him so he wouldn't fall, the police report said.
Corbin also said there was video of a teacher grabbing the child by his arms and neck and said what was seen in the video is consistent with the child’s injuries, according to the report.
Taylor Vaughn, of Clermont County Children’s Protective Services, said Macias admitted she grabbed the child "in an inappropriate manner that was against Rainbow Day Care’s protocol," the police report said.
In a written statement, Rainbow's corporate office in Michigan said they "have taken this matter extremely seriously."
"That’s why we self-reported the incident to the state, terminated the individual’s employment immediately, and cooperated fully with authorities throughout their investigation," the company said. "Our proactive self-reporting, as well as our transparency with our families, helped ensure this former staff member will be held accountable for her actions. Also, we will not allow the deplorable actions of a few represent the exceptional work of our teachers around the country. We will continue to do whatever we can to ensure the health and well-being of all of the children in our care."
Macias told police she was scared and didn’t know what to do because she had been taking care of children for 20 years and had never had any issues. Macias said the child involved has "behavioral problems" and she "was trying to get him away from other kids and teachers" but he was fighting her, police reports said.
A report the I-Team obtained from Ohio's Department of Job and Family Services notes the allegation that "a staff member inappropriately disciplined a child."
Findings of that investigation show a staff member had used "inappropriate" "cruel, harsh, unusual or extreme techniques" to manage a child's behavior. Findings of a second allegation show a "child care staff member had abused, endangered, or neglected a child .... The individual needs to be released from employment immediately."
Wilson released a statement Tuesday through her attorney, Brian Goldwasser:
We were pleased to see Ms. Macias accept the consequences for her actions. It is disappointing to know that an individual who claims to have been in the daycare profession for 20 years was capable of harming someone entrusted to her care and then attempt to cover it up when confronted. As a parent we place tremendous trust in caregivers to that which is most precious-our children. We must all remain vigilant and sometimes question what we are told when our child comes home with an injury and where the explanation initially provided does not make sense. Hopefully Ms. Macias and Rainbow have learned their lesson and recognize that when trusted with our children there comes much responsibility.
In a separate case in Northern Kentucky, a judge convicted Anne Marie Ogonek of misdemeanor child abuse. She'd entered an Alford plea last year, maintaining her innocence but admitting the prosecution had enough evidence to convict her.
Three sets of parents have now filed separate lawsuits -- two of them in county court, the other in federal court -- against Ogonek, Rainbow Child Care and Kameelah Nolan, a former employee who worked with Ogonek but was not criminally charged. A fourth family filed a claim with Rainbow's insurance company and settled for $48,500.
All were tied to incidents at the Edgewood facility involving Ogonek and Nolan. Rainbow Child Care fired both women in September 2016.