A Tennessee couple is behind bars and an Olive Garden server is being hailed by police for observing signs of suspected physical abuse.
According to BuzzFeed News, Jordan Cooper, an employee at the restaurant in Paducah, addressed the incident in a Facebook post — including a photo — that has since been removed. She wrote that the party of four, including two adults and two children, immediately raised red flags.
“Her face was black and blue all over,” she wrote of the youngest child. “The guy in this picture was force feeding her food down her threat and grabbing her by her shirt and getting in her face.”
In an interview with WPSD, Cooper explained that the baby appeared to look at her “with a face that said ‘help.'”
In addition to recording the family’s license plate number and reporting it to police, Cooper said she had to leave work early so she could contact social workers regarding her concern for the child’s welfare.
The effort to identify the man led Aaron Caldwell, a 911 dispatcher who was also a childhood friend of Cooper, to suspect he was 33-year-old Mark Pierce. Upon arriving at a home in Paris shortly before noon, officers found two children, Pierce, and the children’s mother, 36-year-old Jessica Woodworth.
According to Paris police investigator Derrek Colley, authorities saw bruising on a 20-month-old child “that they believed to be abuse.”
That child was taken to an area hospital for observation before leaving in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. An 11-year-old girl was transported to Illinois and into her father’s custody.
The efforts of both Cooper and Caldwell earned praise from police.
Colley cited the “team effort” and expressed his wish that there were “more citizens that would observe something like that and actually notify authorities.
Pierce has reportedly lived with Woodworth for several months and had been convicted of child abuse in 2008. Both he and Woodworth are expected to face criminal charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect. They remained behind bars as of the latest reports available with bond set at $200,000 each.
[Featured image: Mark Pierce and Jessica Woodworth, Henry County Sheriff’s Office]