An unlicensed day care operator in Ohio who was accused of sexually abusing children in her care will spend 30 days in jail after recently accepting a plea deal which offered a lighter sentence.
Kimberly Hignite, 52, learned her punishment Monday after pleading guilty to 14 counts of child endangering. In addition to allegedly sexually abusing five children, WBNS reported that police said many of the children were left strapped into their car seats in an unsupervised room.
Detectives who searched Hignite’s home in May 2018 found 23 children, between 7 months and 5 years old, who were being cared for Hignite’s 71-year-old mother—who used a walker. Authorities got involved after two kids in Hignite’s care accused her of sexual abuse, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Citing prosecutors, WBNS reported that three of the victims claimed Hignite would touch them sexually during something they called the “silly private game.”
“A game that Miss Kim forced them to play using a tan and blue game board with pictures of private parts and a red spinner,” one of the victims’ mothers told a judge. “Your Honor, the sound of my autistic son and little girl being able to describe what that grown woman’s vagina looks like and feels like, is something we regrettably will never be able to forget, and honestly something that I can never forgive.”
Parents who testified recounted the varying degrees of abuse their children suffered at the day care: being given sleeping medicine against their will, not being given food and water for hours, and hauling other children into the basement while they were strapped into car seats.
Court records obtained by The Dispatch stated that Hignite denied touching the children but admitted that she did have too many children in her care.
According to the news outlet, three of the five gross sexual imposition charges and five of the child endangerment charges that Hignite was charged with were dismissed; the two remaining sexual misconduct charges were changed to child endangerment charges.
Assistant prosecutor Amy Van Culin claimed that the victims’ families who cooperated with the case were involved in the plea deal. Further, WBNS reported that both the defense and prosecution endorsed the controversial sentence.
In addition to the jail sentence, Hignite was ordered to pay for the costs associated with her incarceration and a $2,400 fine.
“I want the court to know that we accepted this plea deal because I could not allow Ms. Hignite to take away one more moment from my children’s lives,” a mother of two of the victims told the court. “Not one more.”
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[Featured image: Kimberly Hignite/Franklin County jail]