Three arrests made in connection to Tioga daycare investigation
PINEVILLE, La. (KALB) - The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office has made three arrests in its investigation into allegations of cruelty to juveniles at Totally Kids Childcare Center in the Tioga area.
According to RPSO, Allison VanDusen, 20, of Pineville, was arrested and is facing five charges of second-degree cruelty to juveniles as well as a charge of criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice. VanDusen’s bond was set at $17,500. Destrianna LaCombe, 19, of Dry Prong, was also taken into custody. LaCombe is facing charges of second-degree cruelty to juveniles, criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice, and her bond was set at $7,500. The third arrest was for Michelle Smyth, 56, of Deville, who is facing charges of criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Her bond was set at $5,000. RPSO said her charges are not eligible for a mugshot release.
All three suspects have bonded out of jail.
Initially, RPSO’s investigation stemmed from allegations from a parent who claimed their child had been given melatonin without parental consent while under the supervision of the daycare. RPSO investigated the claims, including interviews with current and former employees.
RPSO said they do not have the authority to shut down a state-licensed daycare facility, but they are continuing the investigation, which is ongoing and active.
News Channel 5 spoke to one parent, Marissa Price, whose two children attended the center from September 2022 to January 2023, at which time she withdrew them over concerns.
She recalled one of the first instances where those concerns began.
”They’re playing teacher and student. And my four years old goes, told my little boy, ‘Well you’re not listening to the teacher, so go get in the jail cell. And I said, ‘Where did you hear that?’ Like I stopped instantly because we don’t talk about that kind of stuff at my house,” recalled Price. “And I was like, ‘Where did you hear that?’ And she goes, ‘Well my teacher at daycare told me that if we didn’t listen they were going to put us in a jail cell and throw away the key and we were never going to see our mommy and daddy again.”
Price shared that the negative experiences make her hesitant to have her children in daycare again, even concerned about school in the future.
“Prior to me getting a job and putting them in daycare, I was already, you know, nervous because you hear all these horror stories about daycare. So, I was already nervous about sending them to school in the future,” explained Price. “But now that they have actually gone to daycare and we’ve experienced one of those things that parents don’t want to experience, I’m even more nervous about her going to school.”
She did add that “no daycare is perfect, and you can never guarantee who they will hire, but be vigilant and trust your gut.”
If anyone has any information on this investigation, they are asked to contact the Criminal Investigation Division at 318-473-6727 or Crime Stoppers at 318-443-7867. The Crime Stoppers P3 Tipster app may also be downloaded to leave tips and get a claim number for reward. P3 app: https://www.p3tips.com/community/mobile/index.htm. NOTE: Crime Stoppers is a private non-profit organization. Crime Stoppers is not a law enforcement agency.
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