19 citations issued for Abilene church daycare involved in child sex crime investigation
ABILENE, Texas —
A south Abilene church daycare involved in a child sex crime investigation has been cited 19 times by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services since March of 2016.
On Wednesday, the Abilene Police Department said that there are at least eight victims. Seven of them attended Wylie Baptist CDC.
Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge said that they have been working closely with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services during this investigation.
On the DFPS website, it states that the Wylie Baptist CDC was cited 19 times for deficiencies during inspections, with risk levels ranging from medium to high.
Three of the citations involved supervision of children and had a high risk level.
March 17, 2017 - A child in care was not properly supervised by the caregiver at the operation.
September 12, 2016 - During this inspection, the school age children were observed in the parking lot of the operation after being dropped off by the school bus. The operation staff was not aware that the children had been dropped off. The operation staff were made of aware of the children during this inspection bringing the center into compliance.
April 15, 2016 - A child was left unattended in a classroom for approximately four minutes. The two teachers and other children had gone to the cafeteria for lunch. The child left the classroom and was intercepted in the hall by another teacher.
Police also said on Wednesday that the director was fired and could face charges. Wylie Baptist CDC was cited March 9, 2016 after "it was determined that the director is not routinely present at the operation," according to DFPS.
Roberts, who did not have a previous criminal record, had passed a background check, but the child care center was twice cited, April 28, 2016 and August 10, 2016, for not updating background checks on its employees.
Police say they now have identified eight victims tied to a 24-year-old Abilene man who was arrested last week on child sex charges.
And Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge said there's an "extremely high likelihood" that Benjamin Russell Roberts sexually assaulted even more victims.
Police are continuing to conduct interviews with potential victims, and Standridge said he expects more victims to come forward.
Roberts was arrested March 28 and charged with indecency with a child and possession of child pornography. His bond was set at $150,000 on each charge.
Meanwhile, Standridge said the former director of the child development center at Wylie Baptist Church is expected to be charged in connection with the case.
Before being arrested last week, Roberts had previously worked at Wylie Baptist Church's Child Development Center and youth programs associated with at least two other Abilene churches.
Seven of the eight victims are from Wylie Baptist Church's CDC, according to the police chief. The eighth victim is from a north Abilene neighborhood center.
Standridge said the director hasn't been arrested, but that "we do anticipate filing charges at some point."
"We have reason to believe that she (the director) was aware of some of these criminal accusations (against Roberts)," Standridge said during a news conference.
Professionals are required by law to report child abuse, Standridge said.
“Failure to do so can be an offense in the state of Texas,” the police chief said.
Meanwhile, Wylie Baptist Church's Senior Pastor Mike Harkrider issued a statement Wednesday.
"As you all know Wylie Baptist Child Development Center has been working closely with the Abilene Police Department and the Department of Family and Protective Services in regards to the Benjamin Roberts investigation. At this point in the investigation, the acting director of the Wylie Baptist Child Development Center, has been released from her position as per the Department of Family and Protective Services. The investigation is still ongoing and this is all we know at this time. We are in heartfelt prayer for all of those involved in this difficult situation -- Wylie Baptist Church CDC Board of Directors"
When asked the name of Wylie Baptist CDC director, Harkrider said, "The information given on the previous email is all that we can give at this time."
According to police, Roberts worked at three places where he was in contact with children, including the Wylie Baptist Church's Child Development Center, Southern Hills Church of Christ daycare and Beltway Park Church's youth program.
Roberts had no criminal record, according to police, so he would have passed any background checks.
Police are encouraging parents of children who attend or have attended Wylie Baptist's CDC, Southern Hills or Beltway Park to talk to their kids. If they disclose abuse, you should call Abilene police immediately at (325) 673-8331.