Charges Filed on Five Mississippi Child Care Workers Who Used ‘Scream Mask’ to Punish Toddlers for Misbehaving

Five Mississippi daycare workers have been charged after organizing a costume scare for the children they were watching. One of the staffers, as seen in a now-viral video, wore a mask of a spooky character from the box office rated R film “Scream,” viciously terrorizing the young children.

On Wednesday, Oct. 19, it was announced that four of the former workers at the Lil’ Blessings Child Care and Learning Center in Hamilton, Mississippi, now face three counts of felony child abuse, according to WAAY 31. They are: Sierra McCandless, 21; Oci-Anna Kilburn, 28; Jennifer Newman, 25; and Shyenne Shelton, 28.

The former child-care providers were allegedly performing “behavior modification” practices that involved one of them wearing a Halloween mask when punishing one of the children.

Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook said, according to the Monroe Journal, “It appears to us they were using the mask for behavior modification. They can’t use corporal punishment, so we think they were using the mask to try to scare the kids into doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

Another worker, Traci Hutson, also has been charged with two misdemeanors: failing to report the abuse and simple assault against a minor.

The sheriff said all of the individuals live in the Hamilton/Caledonia area.

While the five workers are facing criminal charges, the owner of the establishment will not.

In a clip of the incident, recorded on Tuesday, Oct. 4 at the Lil’ Blessings, children are seen crying in fear after seeing the costumed care provider.  Hamilton, Mississippi, is located approximately 170 miles northeast of the state’s capital city of Jackson.

Three videos of the incident surfaced on Facebook on Wednesday, Oct. 5. The children were allegedly being disciplined for misbehaving and not cleaning up in their respective areas at the daycare.

At one point in one of the videos, the staffer with the mask on gets up close, within inches, of a seated child’s face, and says, “Are you being bad?”

She then shouts in the toddler’s face through the mask, “You want me to take you outside?” Then she screams loudly, elevating the sense of fright in the room.

“We are supposed to be cleaning up, monster,” the woman behind the cell phone is heard saying.

The other workers are standing around giggling and one is recording the video that was posted to social media.

After the videos were posted on Facebook, multiple agencies such as the MCSO and Mississippi State Department of Health launched separate investigations. 

“We opened an investigation to look into it to see if it was a crime and fit one of our state statutes and if so, which one?” said the sheriff. He also said the two groups are sharing information as the investigation progresses.

“Earlier this week,” he continued, “we met with all of the families that wanted to meet with us considering possible charges and what those charges might be.”

The closed meeting was held at the Monroe County Courthouse on Monday, Oct. 17. In attendance were the families involved, MCSO investigators, the district attorney and the county prosecuting attorney.

The meeting was set up to “inform them of the possible criminal charges the law would allow them to pursue,” Crook said. “Parents were also given an opportunity to share information they had gathered with MCSO Investigators.”

Crook added, “After that meeting, we had three sets of parents who decided to go to justice court and file charges on some of the daycare workers.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 19, at least one set of parents signed felony child abuse affidavits in Monroe County Justice Court. By the next day, Thursday, Oct. 20, a local judge issued warrants on charges filed against five of the daycare workers by a number of other parents on behalf of their children.

“There were some who were certain they wanted to file felony charges,” he continued. “And the only felony charge that this could possibly fit in was felony child abuse under subsection 1-D, and that dealt with improper supervising of the kids and their neglect and possible substantial mental trauma from what they were going through.”

One of the parents, Katelyn Johnson, is an administrative assistant at MCSO. Her son, a 2-year-old named Pierce, was present during the incident and now has trouble sleeping at night.

She said, “He’s been doing okay. He has reactions to the specific mask that she used, and we’ve had a few nights where it’s hard for him to either go to bed or he’ll be waking up in the middle of the night but it’s not anything that positive reinforcement can’t help with.”

“With him being so young, what I’m told is positive reinforcement, love, and reassuring and that he is in a safe place may be what’s best for him,” she continued, adding, “A 2-year-old isn’t going to understand a regular therapy session or play therapy.”

Johnson is one of the parents filing charges and said to the teachers, “I hope you’re enjoying jail and I hope you realize what you have done is serious. It is not a joke and it is nothing to laugh at.”

Pierce’s mother said, “I hope, for anything, there is justice for the children and at the end of this, all the women involved are brought to light with all the damage they have done and the trauma brought to the families, the parents, and the children.”

Alyssa Hayes, another mother of a child at the daycare, said to ABC News, “I want them to see the terror on her face because that is what I see every night.”

The problem for Johnson is that Lil’ Blessings is the only daycare in the small town of Hamilton.

“It has been an inconvenience for me specifically because I’ve had to find somebody that I trust. The only other daycare is in Aberdeen, and they have a waiting list. Driving to Amory, Greenwood Springs or Columbus is inconvenient if an emergency were to arise,” said Johnson.

The mother also has a 5-year-old daughter associated with the daycare; she participated in its after-school program.

“She has been there since she was 18 months old, and this is the first time we’ve had an instance like this arise,” she said.

According to the owner of the daycare, the first video was recorded in September. Like the Oct. 4 incident, the owner was not aware that her staffers had engaged in these antics and have since fired the four directly involved in menacing the minors.

The sheriff said the charges will be presented to the grand jury. Upon its careful discretion, if the evidence is strong enough the four former staffers will

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