By Sara Turnbull and Andi Babineau, CNN
Four former employees of a Mississippi daycare are facing child abuse charges after a viral video surfaced showing an adult wearing a Halloween mask and scaring the children in their care.
On Monday, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuting attorneys “met with the parents of the children involved in the incident at Lil’ Blessings Child Care and Learning Center and informed them of the possible criminal charges the law would allow them to pursue,” a news release from the sheriff’s office says.
“I admit it was very hard to watch these videos,” Sheriff Kevin Crook wrote on social media about the incident. “It made me sick to my stomach to think of the terror those kids were enduring.”
In the video, the employees are seen wearing a mask similar to that of the “Scream” villain, yelling in the kids’ faces and chasing the kids around the room. The children can be heard screaming and crying in distress.
According to court documents, the incidents occurred in mid-September and early October.
Sierra McCandless, 21, Oci-Anna Kilburn, 28, Jennifer Newman, 25, and Misty Shyenne Mills, 28, are each facing three counts of felony child abuse, according to court documents.
A fifth woman, Traci Hutson, is facing charges of failure to report abuse by a mandatory reporter and simple assault against a minor, both misdemeanors, according to the release.
The sheriff’s office did not specify which of the women wore the mask or exactly what role each of them is accused of playing.
The Monroe Journal spoke with Sheila Sanders, the daycare owner for the last twenty years.
“I contacted my licensure, and she has gotten involved,” Sanders said to the Journal. “The people that did those acts are no longer with us. They were fired. I wasn’t here at the time and wasn’t aware they were doing that. I don’t condone that and never have. I just want to say it’s been taken care of.”
Newman posted on her Facebook page that she was the one behind the camera and it wasn’t the first time this had happened.
“I recorded to get the proof and then the video was sent to parents to show them how their child was being treated,” she wrote. “I did not video this for s**** and giggles. It was not funny to me.”
Newman declined to speak with CNN when asked for comment.
The suspects were arrested Wednesday, and the four facing felony charges made their initial court appearances Thursday, according to the timeline laid out in the release.
Court records show bond was set at $20,000 each for McCandless and Kilburn and $15,000 each for Newman and Mills. A county sheriff’s office employee tells CNN they have all bonded out.
The records also state none of the women charged with felonies are employed at the daycare any longer.
Melissa Parker, director of the Office of Licensure with the Mississippi State Department of Health, says as of Thursday the facility has not reopened.
CNN has reached out to the former daycare employees for comment.
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