JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – A 4-month-old boy was found in a darkened room at a day care center with a pacifier taped into his mouth, the Tennessee Department of Human Services announced Wednesday.
The department responded Tuesday to an anonymous complaint that a caregiver at Noah's Ark Nursery and Preschool in Jefferson City was taping babies' mouths shut.
Upon arrival, an investigator heard muffled whining from the bathroom and found the boy's mouth covered with two pieces of two-inch-wide clear packing tape over a pacifier, department spokeswoman Michelle Mowery Johnson said.
The center was served with a suspension order from DHS and was closed Wednesday. A hearing was set for Thursday before an administrative judge.
Nursery owner Kim Trentham, who has run the daycare since 1993, did not answer repeated calls to the center or her home.
"It's absolutely unbelievable that this would happen," Johnson said. "They have no respect or concern for life. The child could have died."
According to the suspension order, caretaker Angela Day Gentry told police the taping incident had occurred before, and that placing the tape on the child was a "mutual" idea between herself and Kim Ball, the other caretaker in the room.
Gentry told police Ball actually placed the tape on the child, according to the report.
"The child literally could have ingested the tape, aspirated, or had breathing problems very quickly (among other possibilities) without an adult's knowing of any crisis," the report stated.
The facility received a three-star rating, the highest possible, by the DHS in its latest evaluation.
In March 2005, it was investigated by DHS after a child it was caring for died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The department found no wrongdoing or foul play, and no licensing action was taken.
The facility cares for 24 children between 6 weeks old and 5 years old. Jefferson City is 28 miles northeast of Knoxville.
The department said it does two announced visits per year at each day care site, and about six total. The center was able to receive a three-star ranking because foul play was never proven.
"The violations we found in the past didn't rise to a level where there would raise this much concern," Johnson said. "Those stars will be gone now, and the facility is under investigation."