TRINITY — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that he sexually assaulted a 3-year-old girl at the in-home day care center run by his mother, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
Detectives are also investigating similar allegations made by three other children at the day care.
The licensed day care provider and mother of the arrested teen, Jacqueline Thomas-Gibson, and her employees could also face charges of child neglect, Pasco sheriff's Detective Mel Eakley said Wednesday at a news conference. He said that's because the girl said she was assaulted while the children were unsupervised — during nap time.
Lucius Isaiah Gibson IV was arrested on a charge of sexual battery. He was booked into the Pasco Juvenile Detention Center, where he will be held for 21 days. He could later be charged as an adult.
He lives at the Trinity in-home day care known on social media as "Jacque's Teddy Bear Child Care," which was operated by his mother at their home at 1538 Amaryllis Court in the Thousand Oaks East subdivision.
The 3-year-old victim, who was not identified, said the teen entered the day care's nap room and assaulted her several times, according to an arrest report. The report doesn't say when the incidents took place, but a detective first interviewed the girl on June 9.
According to the report, Gibson admitted he had unintentionally exposed himself in front of the children, but denied assaulting anyone.
Eakley said detectives are investigating whether there were additional victims. A total of seven children were at the day care during the unsupervised nap time. Three additional children, two girls and a boy, have accused Gibson of similar activity, Eakley said. Detectives are now investigating those allegations.
The Department of Children and Families is the state agency responsible for overseeing day care centers. But during Wednesday's news conference, Eakley put the onus for vetting day cares and their employees on the parents of the children.
The detective said parents need to do their "homework" by pulling public records on the day care, asking other parents for references and running criminal background checks on the day care's employees.
"As parents, the responsibility far exceeds those that's left to the Department of Children and Families," he said.
But child abuse expert Jill Levenson, as associate professor of social work at Barry University in Miami, balked at that advice.
There is only so much parents can do, she said.
"There is and should be a presumption that if I'm choosing a day care that is licensed by the state of Florida, that the state has done a thorough investigation of this provider," Levenson said. "Parents absolutely should presume that that's being done on some level."
The records of Pasco investigators' last visit to the Gibson residence wouldn't have been public record anyway.
In 2013, Eakley said detectives investigated the alleged "inappropriate touching" of a 4-year-old girl by Lucius Gibson, then 13. The activity was "similar in nature" to the latest allegation, Eakley said.
However, the detective said that at the time they didn't think they had enough evidence to arrest Lucius Gibson. The parents of the 4-year-old girl also decided not to press charges, Eakley said.
The DCF said it was not notified of the sheriff's 2013 investigation. The Sheriff's Office issued a statement saying the DCF did know.
Because Gibson was 13 at the time and it was a "child-on-child" allegation, those records would not have been public.
Jacqueline Thomas-Gibson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
She and an employee said the day care has been in business for 10 years, Eakley said. However, if parents had checked the day care's history, they would have found inspection reports in the DCF's online database dating back only to October 2014.
The violations were sparse and minor: two medical violations in 2014 and a 2015 violation for housing too many children.
Eakley said the Trinity day care center was placed on a 90-day suspension, during which it cannot care for any children. The DCF said it would also look into the day care.
"Our attorneys will move forward on handling the legal aspects regarding the current licensure," DCF spokeswoman Natalie Harrell said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.
Contact Hannah Alani at email@example.com or (813) 909-4617. Follow @hannahalani.