‘She was the only one who showed any remorse’: Judge orders probation instead of jail time for pregnant ex-daycare worker in child abuse case

Published 12:38 pm Friday, October 7, 2022

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VIDALIA, La. — The last of four former daycare workers charged in a child cruelty case received probation instead of jail time on Friday morning.

Judge Kathy Johnson sentenced 20-year-old Taylor Ragonesi to three years hard labor, suspended with three years of supervised probation on Friday.

Taylor Ragonesi

Ragonesi, who is 23 weeks pregnant, must also complete 1,000 hours of community service and an anger management class when her baby is 6 months old. She may never work in a childcare setting again, Johnson ordered.

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“I choose not to endanger her and her baby by sentencing her to probation rather than incarceration,” Johnson said before sentencing Ragonesi.

The court was provided with medical records that show Ragonesi has severe Crohn’s Disease, a condition that causes inflammation of the bowels for which Ragonesi takes regular injections. If not properly treated, “it can be detrimental” to Ragonesi and her unborn child, Johnson read from a medical report.

Ragonesi pleaded guilty to one count of child cruelty in June after she had been charged with three counts. The charges stem from a child cruelty probe of the Noah’s Ark Christian Daycare in Vidalia in October 2021.

Johnson said Detective Stephen Lipscomb of Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office initially responded to a complaint from Annabelle Wilson, the mother of 14-month-old Ty Wilson who attended the daycare. Wilson had received a phone call from the owner of the daycare, Lysa Richardson, stating that Ty had been struck on the back by an employee and that she was firing the employee, identified as Ragonesi. The strike left a handprint on the child’s back, Johnson said.

Lipscomb seized security video that showed Ragonesi strike the child. More footage later showed her striking two other children on separate occasions, Johnson said.

On Sept. 7, Richardson and two other employees were sentenced to prison at hard labor for multiple counts of child cruelty.

Richardson pleaded guilty to three counts of cruelty to a juvenile and was sentenced to seven years hard labor. Bridget K. Delaughter pleaded guilty to three counts of cruelty to a juvenile and was sentenced to nine years hard labor.

Julianne Perales pleaded guilty to six counts of cruelty to a juvenile and was sentenced to 12 years hard labor, without benefits. The first three counts run concurrently and the last three consecutively. None of them are allowed to work at a childcare facility ever again, Johnson ordered.

In addition to reports of Ragonesi’s medical history, Johnson said she received several letters submitted to the court on behalf of Ragonesi.

Derrick Carson, a public defense attorney for Ragonesi, pointed out she had no prior criminal history and was educated through the 11th grade with no GED and no childcare training. He said Richardson had encouraged, if not required, Ragonesi to use corporal punishment on the children, which meant “hitting them and using acts of physical violence” against them. Ragonesi was employed at the daycare for three months and prior cases indicate that the treatment of the children could have been going on at the daycare for years, Carson said.

“I’m very concerned about her health and her baby’s and I feel she more or less was forced to impose corporal punishment by the owner,” Johnson said.

She added Ragonesi had provided investigators with details to help them know what to look for in the security video.

Johnson said when Ragonesi attended the sentencing of her three co-workers, “The only one who showed any remorse was Miss Ragonesi.”

“I note that as she cried, I looked at her and said, ‘You ought to be crying.’ None of the others shed a tear and she cried the entire time,” Johnson said.

“I don’t condone anything Miss Ragonesi did because it was wrong. … She was told she should be sterner when disciplining the children in the nursery. I blame most of the problems with that nursery on the owner.”