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Daycare workers caught on video chasing crying children in Halloween mask are charged with child abuse

Families quickly removed their toddlers from the Mississippi facility after seeing their children being taunted in the viral footage

Johanna Chisholm
Thursday 20 October 2022 20:11 BST
Viral video shows daycare workers scaring toddlers in Halloween mask

Daycare workers who were caught on camera donning a Halloween mask and chasing terrified children at a Mississippi facility have been charged with felony child abuse.

On 6 October, cell phone footage from inside the Monroe County daycare quickly went viral after many concerned parents saw the disturbing sight of employees sneaking up on unsuspecting children and chasing after them while wearing the GhostFace mask from the horror movie Scream.

Five individuals identified in the videos have since been identified as Sierra McCandless, Oci-Anna Kilburn, Jennifer Newman, Shyenne Shelton and Traci Hutson.

They are each charged with three counts of felony child abuse. Ms Hutson is facing two additional misdemeanour charges for failure to report abuse and simple assault against a minor.

WTVA 9 reported that the viral videos are from two separate incidents at Lil’ Blessings Daycare and Learning Center in Hamilton, one in September and one more recently from 4 October.

In the video, adult caretakers are seen wearing the frightening mask as they taunt and tease a group of toddlers. In one clip, an employee pursues a screaming child while the wails and shrieks of other off-camera children echo throughout the small room.

Another clip appears to show one of the unmasked employees asking a roomful of children if they need to be punished for misbehaving, before she points out a child who has been “bad”. Next, a masked employee can be seen jumping into that child’s face and asking if they “need to take you outside?”

The owner of the daycare centre, who spoke with WTVA 9 on condition of anonymity as she was seeking her own legal counsel but was later identified as Sheila Sanders, confirmed that she were not present at the time of the incidents and had since fired four employees who were involved in the appalling matter.

“The people that did those acts are no longer with me,” Ms Sanders told the local news outlet.

“I do not condone that. I just wanted to say that it is being taken care of.”

Shortly after the video footage began making its rounds online, parents of children enrolled at the small community daycare began pulling their kids home.

“We thought we knew these people, we’re from here. I cannot communicate the words how I feel. I’m devastated for my baby,” said Alissa Hays, whose daughter can be seen being terrorised by one of the employees in the video, in an interview with WCBI.

Footage from inside a Mississippi daycare shows employees taunting screaming toddlers in a frightening Halloween mask (WTVA 9/video screengrab)

After she and her husband, Keegan, were sent a link of the video from a friend who had seen it first, they immediately went to pick their daughter up.

Despite the owner of the Monroe County daycare taking immediate action in firing the involved employees, parents in the community remained sceptical about using the local facility in the future.

“It would definitely take security cameras, it would definitely take more leadership,” said Mr Hays in an interview with WTVA 9, adding that it would also mean “not leaving immature employees responsible of these little kids and their lives.”

Video footage from inside a Mississippi daycare shows employees chasing after frightened toddlers as they don a Halloween mask (WTVA 9/video screengrab)

The charges were filed after local authorities met with the parents, according to Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook.

“On Monday October 17, 2022 the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, the County Prosecuting Attorney, and the District Attorney met with the parents of the children involved in the incident at Lil’ Blessings Child Care and Learning Center and informed them of the possible criminal charges the law would allow them to pursue,” the sheriff said.

“Parents were also given an opportunity to share information they had gathered with MCSO Investigators.”

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