WAUKESHA, Wis. (WTMJ) - A Wisconsin daycare center is being investigated, as one of its workers faces criminal charges over accusations that she abused an infant.
Heather Miller, a 48-year-old worker at a daycare center called The Lawrence School in Waukesha, appeared in court Thursday. She is charged with physical abuse of a child after accusations that she slammed a child into a mattress and made it hard for him to breathe.
“When I say that it’s awful, it seems to me to indicate that there’s so much awful that I don’t even know how to explain it,” said court commissioner David Herring.
A criminal complaint states the incident happened August 17 while Miller was a lead teacher in the daycare’s infant room.
An employee told police she witnessed Miller telling an infant he was disgusting. The witness claimed when Miller put the child down for a nap, she concealed his crib from a security camera, picked him up and slammed him face down into the crib. She then allegedly held him down to the point it sounded like the child struggled to breathe.
The witness says she ran to get help and told the facility director and assistant director what was going on, but nothing was done. The next week, the witness told the child’s mother he was not safe at the daycare center.
The parents of that child reported he was lethargic, fussy and unwell for two weeks, according to court records. They eventually took him to a children’s hospital, but a doctor did not find any injuries.
“People trust the most important thing that they have, the reason why they go to work every day, the reason why they do things in life, to places just like this to ensure that their loved ones are taken care of. When you abuse that trust, that is an aggravating factor,” Herring said.
In a criminal complaint, Miller and other staff members denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the alleged incident.
Mother Renee Martinez does not know Miller but says she took her children to the daycare center until an incident happened in December 2018.
“I had found out from an employee that my son a couple weeks prior was left outside… alone and unattended, and he had just turned 3,” she said.
Martinez says she felt alone in her experience, but she is speaking publicly now to encourage others to come forward.
“Just speak up. If you see something wrong, speak up. Those are people’s children, and we just have to protect everybody’s children,” she said.
Police are still reviewing evidence related to the case. Three other daycare staff members may potentially face criminal charges.
If she’s convicted, Miller could face up to 16 years in prison.
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