Former Valley daycare employee caught on surveillance assaulting child

PHOENIX - ABC15 has obtained a video showing a Valley daycare employee hitting a 21-month-old boy twice in the face with a broomstick. 

Since February, ABC15 has been covering the incident that happened at Brighter Angels Learning Center, a preschool and daycare near Central Avenue and Baseline Road.

The boy was struck by employee Lillie Adams. She was fired that same day, but according to court documents, she was told to not talk to anybody about what happened — including the victim's mother.

Daycare employees told the boy's mom that his facial injury happened after he tripped and fell in the classroom. However, the incident was caught on daycare surveillance footage.

Now, the mother is speaking out for the first time to ABC15.

"They don't know what kind of people are taking care of their kids," the mother said, not wanting us to reveal her identity. "I think they should literally close down."

Adams pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in October. 

The daycare director, Perla Denise Sierra Duarte, was originally charged with failure to report neglect of a minor and hindering prosecution. But, that was downgraded to a single misdemeanor in Phoenix City Court. Duarte pled guilty back in July. She no longer works at Brighter Angels either.

The owner, Ruben Sandoval, was convicted last month of a misdemeanor for covering up the abuse at his daycare. He still owns and operates the facility. 

With triple convictions involving three different employees, the victim's mother is confused as to why Brighter Angels is still operating and is still licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

"They just lied to my face," the mother said. "I trusted them."

Not only did she trust them as a mother, she trusted them as an employee. 

She was working at Brighter Angels at the time of the incident and was just down the hall when Adams hit her little boy. 

In the video, you can see the 21-month-old boy crawl under a table in a room there. It appears that Adams is trying to push the boy from under the table with the bristles of the room. However, she then took the broom and forcibly hit him in the face twice.

She then pulls him out from under the table and places a paper towel on his forehead.

Court documents say that she told Duarte that the boy tripped and fell, but Duarte watched the tape and knew that was a lie. 

"On my way to the hospital, he was bleeding all over his face," the mother recalled. "And kept turning back and asking him, 'Please don't go to sleep.'"

Duarte told Sandoval who fired Adams. But, court documents report that Sandoval devised a note to give to the mother that said the boy tripped and fell instead. 

It was hospital employees that noticed inconsistencies with the injuries and the story the mother was told. They pushed her to contact police. 

After all of this has been settled in court, the mother is now wondering why the facility is still open — especially since Sandoval is registered to a handful of daycare facilities around the state.

ABC15 took that question to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

They told us, Brighter Angels is under investigation, so they cannot comment specifically on their case. But, we asked them generically why places are still able to operate despite an investigation. 

"No matter what, the licensee has rights," said Assistant Director with ADHS Colby Bower. "So we have to do an investigation to figure out whether or not the allegations are true or not." 

Bower's department licenses these facilities and gives them the ability to operate in Arizona.

He said their investigations go off of violations when making a decision to revoke a license; not necessarily a court conviction. 

Bower explained that the process also takes time. Even if they do have video evidence, like in the case of Brighter Angels, licensees have the right to dispute and appeal violations.

"People appeal speeding tickets where they're on the radar and the police officers there," Bower explained. "So, it's just a right people have to do, so we have to go through that."

Bower suggested that all parents should familiarize themselves with the department website. On it, parents can look through all the violations of daycares across the state to see if a place is, or is not right for your child. 

There is no timeline on when that investigation will be completed. But if they do decide to revoke the license, it would apply to all of Sandoval's Arizona locations. 

We reached out to Sandoval's attorney twice over the last month. Paul Charlton has not responded to either request. 

The mother also has a civil case pending in court against all three employees. 

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