Two employees of Sioux Falls Little Blessings Learning Center, Teresa Gallagher and Kenedi Wendt were arrested after video footage showed them repeatedly abusing young children at naptime by slamming them to the ground, violently yanking them by their limbs and stomping on them.
Gallagher, 31, and Wendt, 22, were both charged with 25 counts of abuse or cruelty to a minor on Friday, said a police spokesman. All the abuse took place at the center, located at, 1310 W 51st St, Sioux Falls, SD 57105.
The Department of Social Services opened a case to investigate the pair after parents reported several incidences of abuse. An internal investigation resulted in Gallagher and Wendt being fired.
The DSS then contacted police, and in early March a detective obtained video footage from the daycare spanning the dates of Feb. 14 to Feb. 23. that showed Gallagher and Wendt had been systematically abusing the children during nap time. Clemens said it wasn’t clear what was causing the abuse — even a slight movement from a child could result in them being picked up several feet off the ground and slammed onto a sleep mat, being stepped on, having their arms yanked or their heads banged around.
“The video was pretty clear, but it was tough to figure out why this took place,” Clemens said. “All of it seemed to be happening really just kind of because.” source
Clemens said video showed that while the abuse did not happen every day, it appeared that the majority of the children in the room — all between the ages of 3 and 4 — were victimized.
Clemens said during interviews, but before the video footage had been viewed, multiple parents had said their child had mentioned not liking nap time.
No children required medical care, Clemens said, but some had complained of back pain or headaches.
Clemens said he wasn’t sure how long the two had been employed by the day care.