Videos on Facebook show a day care worker wearing a Halloween mask and yelling at children
HAMILTON, MS – Four people linked to viral video footage of Mississippi daycare employees using a scary mask to frighten young children are facing charges of felony child abuse, and a fifth person faces two misdemeanor counts.
The daycare’s owner, Sheila Sanders, is not facing charges. She has said that at least four of the employees were fired after the video came to light.
The videos, one filmed in September and another this month, were posted on social media. They show a daycare worker at Lil’ Blessings Child Care & Learning Center in Hamilton, an unincorporated community in northeast Mississippi, wearing a Halloween mask similar to the one in the “Scream” movies and yelling at children who didn’t “clean up” or “act good.”
Children can be seen bawling, cowering in fear, and at times running from the masked employee. Another employee gives directions, singling out which children have acted good or bad, The Associated Press reported. The employee in the mask is shown screaming inches away from children’s faces, the video showed.
Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook said in a news release that four of the women each face three counts of felony child abuse. A fifth woman, he says, faces charges of failure to report abuse by a mandatory reporter and simple assault against a minor — both misdemeanors.
“They can’t use corporal punishment, so we think they were using the mask to try to scare the kids into doing what they were supposed to be doing,” Crook said.
SKELETAL CHILD SAVED FROM BRINK OF DEATH IN HORRIFIC NEGLECT CASE, COPS SAY
WICHITA FALLS, TX – When an exterminator entered room 124 at a Delux Inn in Wichita Falls, Texas, late last month, he thought he saw a skeleton lying in a pack-and-play crib.
But, according to a pair of probable cause affidavits filed in Wichita County Court, “When the head of the skeleton turned and faced the exterminator, he realized that the skeleton was a child who was alive.”
The unidentified exterminator told his supervisor what he had seen, and the supervisor called police. Now the child’s mother, 32-year-old Catherine Lynn Jarvey, is charged with two counts of injury to a child and exploitation of a child, both felonies. She remains jailed on $70,000 bond.
In the affidavits, which are attached to a warrant for Jarvey’s arrest, a detective from the Wichita Falls PD’s Juvenile and Crimes Against Children Units who responded to the scene for a welfare check during the early-morning hours of Sept. 21, said the 6-year-old boy, who weighed only 15 pounds, had “hair growing all over his body,” “could not extend his arms and legs,” and “did not let out any noises.” His head was “misshapen,” his spine was severely curved, and the detective could see the child’s rib cage, “which was curved inward and askew,” the affidavits state.
The boy could not walk, talk, or sit up, and was not potty trained, according to the filings.
A small refrigerator in the room contained peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pancakes, and sausages on a stick, as well as cans of Dr Pepper and Bud Light, the documents continue. There were Capri Sun drinks, ramen noodles, canned food, fruit snacks, brownies, and breakfast cereal in a cabinet beneath the TV, and two bags of dog food beside the bathroom vanity. Cops also found “numerous cans of Pediasure” baby formula, some of which had expired in 2020, as well as insulin, lancets, and syringes.
Responding officers took the 6-year-old to a local hospital for examination, where doctors found he weighed only 15 pounds—just 8 pounds above his birth weight and less than the 19 pounds he weighed at 18-months-old, according to the affidavits. He was admitted to the pediatric ICU with severe malnutrition, dehydration, and failure to thrive.
The child hadn’t seen a doctor since 2019, which Jarvey blamed on transportation issues, the filings go on. At the same time, a second child of Jarvey’s living with her seemed fine, had received redehygular medical checkups, and “looked to be average height and weight for a 10-year-old female,” according to the detective. The dogs were also seemingly well cared for, the affidavits state.
Kevin Thomas, the children’s father, shares custody with Jarvey, according to unrelated court records. He told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that he hasn’t seen Jarvey in more than a year, and said they haven’t been together in more than three years.
“I don’t know what she was doing,” said Thomas, who explained he is following developments in the case on television. “I’m still trying to get my kids back. I’ve been trying to find them for about a year now. I hadn’t been able to find them until I heard about what was going on.”
Hospital staff said the 6-year-old was near-death, and that his was among the most appalling cases they had ever witnessed.
“| see patients for neglect every day,” Dr. Elizabeth Peeler of the Cook Children’s Medical Center C.A.R.E. Team in Fort Worth told cops, saying the child was a “near fatality,” according to the affidavits. “This is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. This is really egregious.”
Jarvey, who remains detained, was unable to be reached. In an email, court-appointed lawyer S. Aaron Holland declined to comment.
The boy, whose name The Daily Beast is aware of but withholding, hadn’t eaten for as many as 48 hours when he was rescued, emergency room staff believed. Jarvey told detectives that her son had been diagnosed with multiple disorders, including alobar holoprosencephaly, hydrocephalus, pectus excavatum, and scoliosis.
Jarvey, the filings add, told officers that “she is used to having CPS and law enforcement called after people see [her son] because his appearance is so abnormal.” She also allegedly said she missed her son’s feeding times that day because “things kept coming up,” such as getting her daughter ready for a dental appointment.
“Catherine stated to Dr. Peeler and to [the detective] that the [child] was fine on 9/21/2022,” the affidavits say. “Catherine stated that she did not believe that the [child] needed to go to the hospital.”
The child exploitation charge Jarvey is facing stems from $841 in monthly Social Security disability payments and $250 a month in food stamps, which were intended to be used for her son’s care and feeding. Yet, according to court filings, Jarvey didn’t spend it on him.
Jarvey’s alleged neglect “resulted in a near fatality,” the affidavits state. However, Jarvey’s boy is “showing the ability to gain weight and his medical condition is stabilizing.”
As of a week ago, the child weighs 17 pounds, 13 ounces “and is improving daily.”
Brands Suspend Ads From Parts of Twitter Over Child Pornography Concerns
Some major advertisers including Dyson, Mazda, Forbes, and PBS Kids have suspended their marketing campaigns or removed their ads from parts of Twitter because their promotions appeared alongside tweets soliciting child pornography, the companies told Reuters.
DIRECTV and Thoughtworks also told Reuters late on Wednesday they have paused their advertising on Twitter.
Brands ranging from Walt Disney Co., NBCUniversal, and Coca-Cola Co. to a children’s hospital were among more than 30 advertisers that appeared on the profile pages of Twitter accounts peddling links to the exploitative material, according to a Reuters review of accounts identified in new research about child sex abuse online from cybersecurity group Ghost Data.
Some of tweets include key words related to “rape” and “teens,” and appeared alongside promoted tweets from corporate advertisers, the Reuters review found. In one example, a promoted tweet for shoe and accessories brand Cole Haan appeared next to a tweet in which a user said they were “trading teen/child” content.
“We’re horrified,” David Maddocks, brand president at Cole Haan, told Reuters after being notified that the company’s ads appeared alongside such tweets. “Either Twitter is going to fix this, or we’ll fix it by any means we can, which includes not buying Twitter ads.”
In another example, a user tweeted searching for content of “Yung girls ONLY, NO Boys,” which was immediately followed by a promoted tweet for Texas-based Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital. Scottish Rite did not return multiple requests for comment.
In a statement, Twitter spokesperson Celeste Carswell said the company “has zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation” and is investing more resources dedicated to child safety, including hiring for new positions to write policy and implement solutions.
She added that Twitter is working closely with its advertising clients and partners to investigate and take steps to prevent the situation from happening again.
Twitter’s challenges in identifying child abuse content were first reported in an investigation by tech news site The Verge in late August. The emerging pushback from advertisers that are critical to Twitter’s revenue stream is reported here by Reuters for the first time.
Like all social media platforms, Twitter bans depictions of child sexual exploitation, which are illegal in most countries. But it permits adult content generally.
Twitter declined to comment on the volume of adult content on the platform.
Ghost Data identified the more than 500 accounts that openly shared or requested child sexual abuse material over a 20-day period this month. Twitter failed to remove more than 70 percent of the accounts during the study period, according to the group, which shared the findings exclusively with Reuters.
Reuters could not independently confirm the accuracy of Ghost Data’s finding in full, but reviewed dozens of accounts that remained online and were soliciting materials for “13+” and “young looking nudes.”
After Reuters shared a sample of 20 accounts with Twitter last Thursday, the company removed about 300 additional accounts from the network, but more than 100 others still remained on the site the following day, according to Ghost Data and a Reuters review.
Reuters then on Monday shared the full list of more than 500 accounts after it was furnished by Ghost Data, which Twitter reviewed and permanently suspended for violating its rules, said Twitter’s Carswell on Tuesday.
In an email to advertisers on Wednesday morning, ahead of the publication of this story, Twitter said it “discovered that ads were running within Profiles that were involved with publicly selling or soliciting child sexual abuse material.”
Andrea Stroppa, the founder of Ghost Data, said the study was an attempt to assess Twitter’s ability to remove the material. He said he personally funded the research after receiving a tip about the topic.
Twitter’s transparency reports on its website show it suspended more than 1 million accounts last year for child sexual exploitation.
It made about 87,000 reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a government-funded non-profit that facilitates information sharing with law enforcement, according to that organization’s annual report.
“Twitter needs to fix this problem ASAP, and until they do, we are going to cease any further paid activity on Twitter,” said a spokesperson for Forbes.
“There is no place for this type of content online,” a spokesperson for carmaker Mazda USA said in a statement to Reuters, adding that in response, the company is now prohibiting its ads from appearing on Twitter profile pages.
A Disney spokesperson called the content “reprehensible” and said they are “doubling-down on our efforts to ensure that the digital platforms on which we advertise, and the media buyers we use, strengthen their efforts to prevent such errors from recurring.”
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola, which had a promoted tweet appear on an account tracked by the researchers, said it did not condone the material being associated with its brand and said “any breach of these standards is unacceptable and taken very seriously.”
NBCUniversal said it has asked Twitter to remove the ads associated with the inappropriate content.
Twitter is hardly alone in grappling with moderation failures related to child safety online. Child welfare advocates say the number of known child sexual abuse images has soared from thousands to tens of millions in recent years, as predators have used social networks including Meta’s Facebook and Instagram to groom victims and exchange explicit images.
For the accounts identified by Ghost Data, nearly all the traders of child sexual abuse material marketed the materials on Twitter, then instructed buyers to reach them on messaging services such as Discord and Telegram in order to complete payment and receive the files, which were stored on cloud storage services like New Zealand-based Mega and U.S.-based Dropbox, according to the group’s report.
A Discord spokesperson said the company had banned one server and one user for violating its rules against sharing links or content that sexualize children.
Mega said a link referenced in the Ghost Data report was created in early August and soon after deleted by the user, which it declined to identify. Mega said it permanently closed the user’s account two days later.
Dropbox and Telegram said they use a variety of tools to moderate content but did not provide additional detail on how they would respond to the report.
Still the reaction from advertisers poses a risk to Twitter’s business, which earns more than 90 percent of its revenue by selling digital advertising placements to brands seeking to market products to the service’s 237 million daily active users.
Twitter is also battling in court Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk, who is attempting to back out of a $44 billion deal to buy the social media company over complaints about the prevalence of spam accounts and its impact on the business.
A team of Twitter employees concluded in a report dated February 2021 that the company needed more investment to identify and remove child exploitation material at scale, noting the company had a backlog of cases to review for possible reporting to law enforcement.
“While the amount of [child sexual exploitation content] has grown exponentially, Twitter’s investment in technologies to detect and manage the growth has not,” according to the report, which was prepared by an internal team to provide an overview about the state of child exploitation material on Twitter and receive legal advice on the proposed strategies.
“Recent reports about Twitter provide an outdated, moment in time glance at just one aspect of our work in this space, and is not an accurate reflection of where we are today,” Carswell said.
The traffickers often use code words such as “cp” for child pornography and are “intentionally as vague as possible,” to avoid detection, according to the internal documents. The more that Twitter cracks down on certain keywords, the more that users are nudged to use obfuscated text, which “tend to be harder for (Twitter) to automate against,” the documents said.
Ghost Data’s Stroppa said that such tricks would complicate efforts to hunt down the materials, but noted that his small team of five researchers and no access to Twitter’s internal resources was able to find hundreds of accounts within 20 days.
Twitter did not respond to a request for further comment.
Teacher charged with 24 sex crimes after posting TikToks of students, school says
A former Tennessee elementary school teacher is facing two dozen child sex charges including rape after police say she posted inappropriate videos of students to TikTok.
Taylor Cruze, 23, was indicted last week by a grand jury in Smyrna as a result of a police investigation in connection to the felony crimes, Rutherford County Schools spokesperson James Evans told USA TODAY.
Evans said that prior to her arrest last month, Cruze was a first-year fifth-grade teacher at John Colemon Elementary School in Smyrna, about 25 miles southeast of Nashville.
She was suspended without pay May 2, Evans said, and resigned from her job May 22.
Evans did not provide additional details about the case to USA TODAY, including what the TikTok videos contained or when they were posted.
On Aug. 3, court records show, officials issued a warrant for Cruze’s arrest and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office arrested her Aug. 10.
Cruze is charged with multiple counts of exploitation of a minor under 13 by electronic means, exploitation of a minor by electronic means and especially aggravated sex exploitation of a minor. She also faces charges of solicitation of a minor – rape of a child, and sexual battery by an authority figure.
Court documents show that at the time of her arrest, Cruze lived in Murfreesboro, about 14 miles south of the elementary school.
On Wednesday, Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lisa Marchesoni told USA TODAY her current address was listed in Knoxville.
A jail spokesperson told USA TODAY Wednesday that Cruze posted a $100,000 bond the same day she was arrested.
Court records show she is due in court on Sept. 28 for a plea hearing.
Evans said the school district is “fully cooperating with law enforcement” as the investigation continues.