AUBURNDALE, Fla. - Police have arrested a daycare worker accused of abusing five preschool children in Auburndale.
Investigators said surveillance video at Little Bloodhound Preschool, located at 222 Ariana Ave, showed 36-year-old Michelle Marie Wilkerson abusing several children.
According to Auburndale police, Wilkerson admitted the video looked bad but said she was trying to physically stop children from biting one another. Police, however, said the video showed the abuse was more than stopping kids from biting. They are not releasing the video to the public.
“She stated she was stopping the children from biting each other... In the video it shows there were no children biting each other,” said Auburndale Police Lt. Andy Moore.
One of the alleged victim’s relatives spoke to FOX 13 on the condition we would not identify her.
“It made me sick. Wouldn't it make you sick if it were your baby being abused?” the woman asked.
She says Michelle Wilkerson abused her 3-year-old granddaughter multiple times at the Little Bloodhound Preschool in Auburndale.
“This is where they're supposed to be safe, this was supposed to be OK,” she told FOX 13.
Detectives said on three separate occasions, Wilkerson could be seen covering the mouth, nose and chin of a child to force the head back and make the child look toward the ceiling, squeezing the child's cheek to make the youngster cry.
According to investigators, Wilkerson also twice yanked a child by the arm to move the child from one table to another.
The daycare's policy says an employee is not allowed to place hands on a child; rather, they are instructed to verbally re-direct children in their care.
The owner of Lit'le Bloodhound worked with officers to contact parents and guardians of children who were victims of abuse, police said.
“This was not seen, people gave us good reference on her, nothing was on her background,” said Michelle Ore, Director of the Lit’le Bloodhound Preschool. “I’m devastated, I really am, and the only reason I’m coming on is because I don’t want parents to think we're hiding anything.”
Police arrested Wilkerson on Wednesday and charged her with five counts of child abuse, which is a third-degree felony. She is being held without bond at the Polk County Jail.