Hearings set for next week in child cruelty investigation involving Vidalia daycare

Published 4:00 am Monday, June 13, 2022

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VIDALIA, La. — Pre-trial hearings are set to begin June 22 for three former daycare employees charged with child cruelty.

Four people were charged in connection with the case involving Noah’s Ark Christian Childcare in Vidalia.

Taylor Ragonesi, 19, a former worker pleaded guilty June 1 to cruelty to a juvenile and is awaiting sentencing. She was originally charged with three counts of cruelty to a juvenile.

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Others arrested include daycare owner, Lysa C. Richardson, 36, who was charged with three counts of cruelty to a juvenile; Bridget K. Delaughter, 33, charged with four counts of cruelty to a juvenile; and Julianne Perales, 26, charged with 11 counts of cruelty to a juvenile.

District Attorney Brad Burget said the trio could choose to enter pleas before the trial, which has been scheduled to begin Aug. 1

The charges stem from an October 2021 investigation by the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office into a complaint about a 14-month-old child being struck at the daycare. Louisiana State Police later became involved.

Security footage from the daycare reportedly showed an employee “excessively strike the child numerous times,” as well as employees striking two other 1-year-old children, the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators returned with a search warrant and seized a DVR hard drive with more surveillance footage that recorded numerous instances of children being struck excessively on different parts of the body including the face, mouth and head. Employees also were seen striking the children with wooden paint sticks, authorities said.

Annabelle Wilson, the first parent to report abuse, spoke out about what happened in a 2021 interview shortly after the daycare workers were arrested.

Wilson said she had received a call from the daycare director saying that her son had been hurt and that the director was on her way to fire an employee. Wilson said she immediately went to check on her 1-year-old son and saw what appeared to be handprint marks on her son’s back and a red mark on his face. Wilson later viewed the video, which was recorded more than an hour before she was contacted. The video showed her son being struck repeatedly on the face and back by one of the daycare’s employees.

“I’m still trying to grasp the magnitude of it,” she said, adding she thinks other children were hurt worse than her son had been.

As the investigation into the daycare progressed, more parents came forward.

George Pirkey, who had a child at the daycare, said he sometimes questioned a mark or bruise on his nearly 2-year-old son, but it wasn’t until after the child cruelty investigation that he realized what might have caused it.

“It’s going to be hard to trust another facility,” Pirkey said.