One vigilant Olive Garden employee in Kentucky is being hailed a hero for taking action when she spotted two abused-looking children dining at the restaurant. After contacting authorities, the little girls were eventually rescued from a reportedly “horrific” home and two adults were arrested in connection with the negligence.
Though Jordan Cooper doesn’t usually work the Sunday night shift at Olive Garden in Paducah, the waitress instantly felt that something was wrong when she served one particular table on March 3, WPSD first reported.
The employee quickly realized that the 11-year-old and 20-month-old girls were maltreated, likely at the hands of their caretakers, whose identities were later revealed to be Jessica Woodworth and Mark Lee Pierce of Paris, Tenn.
It remains unclear at this time if Woodworth and Pierce are the biological parents of either or both children.
“The baby was sitting in a highchair with a blanket over her head,” Cooper told Yahoo Lifestyle of the family’s bizarre behavior. “When the blanket came off, her face had a lot of black-and-blue bruises.”
“She looked at me with a face that said ‘help,’” the waitress, 21, told WPSD of the unsettling scene. “I can’t even describe to you how bad she looked, and how and why nobody noticed it.”
Cooper also recalled that Pierce aggressively force-fed the toddler and took her with him on multiple trips to the bathroom.
“He shoved breadsticks into her mouth and said, ‘You’d better eat this’ and got in her face while she whimpered,” she told Yahoo.
Cooper said she attempted to intervene when the man took a third trip to the men’s restroom with the baby – sans diaper bag – but the family quickly requested the check and scuttled out of the Olive Garden.
“They drove away so fast, the mom didn’t even strap the baby into her car seat,” the server said.
Fortunately, Cooper had written down their car's license plate number and gathered photos that her colleagues had surreptitiously taken of the foursome while they were in the restaurant, equipping her with valuable information as she called 911.
In addition, Cooper took to her own personal Facebook page later that night to share the story, partial plate number and an image of the baby in a now-deleted post that was shared over 14,000 times online, according to WPSD.
Cooper’s friend, Aaron Caldwell, a 911 operator in Metropolis, Ill., saw the post and sprang into action, following leads to contact the Paris Police Department (PPD).
Later that night, the two suspects were arrested at their home after a welfare check.
“There’s a lot of times we don’t find people like this,” Caldwell told WPSD of the news.
“I heard the conditions of the home were so horrific, a police officer had to collect himself outside,” Cooper said, as per Yahoo.
The baby was sent to the emergency room, and both children were taken into custody of the Kentucky Department of Children’s Services, WPSD reported.
Both Woodworth and Pierce were booked into the Henry County jail for aggravated child abuse and neglect, with bond set at $200,000 each, according to Newsweek.
PPD official Derrek Colley said that Cooper “did an outstanding job" of speaking out.
"If she hadn’t noticed something and done all that, we wouldn’t have gotten the information," he said, according to the outlet.
The investigation is said to be ongoing.
“I couldn’t sleep that night, I was so worried,” Cooper told Yahoo of the ordeal. “It makes me feel good to know these children will be better off.”
Reps for Olive Garden returned Fox News’ request for comment on the story with the following statement, commending Cooper's actions:
“We empower our team members to take action, which they believe is appropriate, whenever they see anyone in need. This was a difficult situation, and Jordan’s actions were taken out of concern for the safety and welfare of a child," a spokesperson said.