On Thursday, five Mississippi childcare workers were charged with child abuse, following a now-viral video of them terrorizing children under their care with a Halloween mask.
The Lil’ Blessings Childcare and Learning Center in Hamilton, Mississippi, was trending across Reddit, YouTube and Facebook after a video was posted of one of its employees scaring children with a mask. The affected children were screaming, crying and hiding in response to the mask, which heavily resembled Ghostface from the “Scream” franchise.
Sierra McCandless, Oci-Anna Kilburn, Jennifer Newman, and Shyenne Shelton were each charged with three counts of felony child abuse. In addition, Traci Hutson, a former employee, faces two misdemeanor charges for failure to report abuse and simple assault against a minor.
Four of the individuals were reportedly fired by the owner of the day care in the days immediately following the controversy.
“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,” said Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook in a statement regarding the incident. “Parents were also given an opportunity to share information they had gathered with MCSO Investigators.” At least one set of parents subsequently signed felony child abuse affidavits in Monroe County Justice Court. An arrest warrant on all five former employees followed.
“As a dad and as someone who has great compassion for those who can’t defend themselves, I admit it was very hard to watch these videos today; and my initial reaction was the same as most anyone else I would think …’they deserve to be charged,'” Crook wrote in a Facebook post on Oct. 6, shortly after an initial video was posted. “It made me sick at my stomach to think of the terror those kids were enduring. It still does.”
“I was in complete shock of what I witnessed,” Katelyn Johnson, mother of a child who attends Lil’ Blessings, told ABC News. “Whether they had a mask on or a mask off, their behavior was unacceptable. My blood pressure was raised. It broke my heart for my child. I was angry.”
“I hope you’re enjoying jail and I hope you realize what you have done is serious,” Johnson continued. “It is not a joke and it is nothing to laugh at.”
“I want them to see the terror on her face because that is what I see every night,” said Alyssa Hayes, the mother of another young girl at the day care center.
A report claims that the Mississippi State Department of Health issued an emergency suspension of the facility’s license after the incident was discovered. This serves as a cease and desist of operation while the investigation is ongoing. While the center had passed an inspection as recently as July 2020 in order to maintain its license as a day care facility, it is now listed as “permanently closed” on Google Maps.
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