NEW PORT RICHEY — After kicking a toddler in the head in an apparent effort to wake her up, a child care employee at Kids Stop-N-Play day care in Holiday was arrested and charged with child abuse, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
Sixteen-month-old Lillian Roan was dotted with bruises when her mother picked her up from the day care Saturday afternoon: one underneath her eye, three on her forehead, and a red, bald patch created when the worker kicked her daughter in the head, Lillian's mother said.
Later that day, Pasco sheriff's deputies arrested Linda K. Klemm, 48, of Tarpon Springs and charged her with child abuse. She was released on $5,000 bail Sunday.
"We're just trying to get awareness so other parents can know what happened," said Lillian's mother, Crystal Faggione, 24, of New Port Richey. "We cried a lot, but other than that, we're holding strong."
Lillian was dropped off at Kids Stop-N-Play, 5339 Mile Stretch Drive, early Saturday by her father, Joseph Roan, 36. It was the child's third day of day care.
When Faggione picked her daughter up after work about 12:45 p.m., she noticed a small bruise under her eye. She called the day care, where someone replied that if the bruise had already appeared, it didn't happen at the day care, according to Faggione.
But when Faggione was giving her daughter lunch, she noticed more bruises on Lillian's forehead.
"I took her up to the day care, and I said, 'This did not happen in my house. This happened here,' " Faggione said.
The Sheriff's Office was notified, and Lillian's family took her to the hospital, where her bruises were deemed superficial.
After authorities watched video obtained from the day care, Klemm was arrested later that day.
"Linda should have known better. Linda was there to take care of children — little, innocent children — and she didn't," Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said. "Even the most hardened law enforcement officers were disgusted by what they saw in the video."
Attempts to reach Klemm on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
A recording shows the blond girl lying on her stomach, a blanket by her side, while several children play nearby. Klemm approaches and kicks the girl on the top of her head, then drags her shoe along the girl's head to wake her up. The girl twitches and gets up on her hands and knees.
Ten minutes later, in another video clip, Klemm is shown approaching Lillian, who is curled up sleeping in the same spot with a teddy bear and blanket. Klemm swiftly kicks the girl in the backside, then yanks the girl into a sitting position and walks away.
Detective William Wood said Klemm has repeatedly denied kicking the girl in the head, despite being presented with the video a dozen times.
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Kids Stop-N-Play owner Rhonda Swetland, who has been operating the day care since 1992, fired Klemm immediately.
"I'm appalled. I'm devastated. I've been here 22 years. Nothing like this has ever happened," Swetland said. "She has four children of her own. She's not a young girl who gets stressed out. … Everybody's appalled."
Klemm, a four-year employee, is a "mellow" person, Swetland said.
"All the children run up to her," she said. "They love her. I don't even know. I've been sick over this."
Swetland said she is cooperating with authorities. Her 16 employees go through background checks, and she has 16 cameras to monitor the day care, she said.
"I am 100 percent backing whatever happens with the Sheriff's Office and with the courts," she said. "I am on the parents' side."
Neither Klemm nor the day care had any previous complaints or incidents on file, according to the Sheriff's Office. Wood said the Sheriff's Office will review 30 days of video surveillance the day care possesses.
Records show Klemm faced a charge in 2009 for retail theft and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Claire McNeill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4613.