Parents seek stiffer sentence for daycare owner taped beating toddler
A longtime daycare owner who admitted to hurting a baby in her care after another child she was watching filmed the abuse, won't be serving jail time and could walk away without a conviction if her sentence sticks.
"Somebody has got to change the fact that you can hurt a baby and get a slap on the hand for that," said the victim's mother.
The McLennan County District Attorney's Office offered Glenda Hammons, 81, of Robinson, five years deferred adjudication in exchange for pleading guilty to one count of injury to a child, a deal she accepted in court Thursday.
"We get that she's got the community supervision, we get that it's five years, but the fact that it can be completely erased, in our minds, puts future kids at harm," said the victim's father.
The parents of the victim, who was 21-months-old at the time of the crime, say they're devastated by the deal that was made.
"It's amazing how you're out of the loop when you're the victims parents," said the victim's father. "I felt like at some point someone was going to listen to what this did to my son and our family--we've never been consulted on any of it at all, no one's asked, ever, and it's shocking."
A spokesman for the DA's office says they have victim assistance coordinators.
"They (the family) came and visited with us after the plea," said Tom Needham, spokesman for District Attorney Barry Johnson.
Wishing to remain anonymous to protect their son and other children, the baby's father and mother say the justice system failed them.
"They told us she won't even have to tell anybody ever, it won't be like she's a convicted felon, it won't be like anyone will ever know she hurt our baby," said the victim's mother.
Needham says the DA's office stands by prosecutor Hilary LaBorde, who they believe offered a fair punishment based on the facts of the case.
"We have full confidence in the judgement," he said.
With all cases there are many factors to take into account, Needham says, and in this case, considering her health and lack of criminal history, they believe the outcome was fair and reasonable.
"I appreciate the victim's standpoint," said Needham. "Unfortunately, we're bound by what the law provides and what the range of punishment is, and on this particular case the range of punishment includes probation, and we think it's highly likely a jury would give her probation as opposed to sentencing her to ten years in criminal corrections, at this point."
The victim's father says he anticipated Hammons' age being an issue.
"We knew she was an old lady, we knew, ya know, the way people looked at her was going to be different than it was, but we thought with the video evidence, with the fact that it was pretty much an open and shut case, that it (the punishment) would be more severe," he said.
The severity of the child's injury was also considered, Needham says.
"We looked at the extent of the injury to the victim, we looked at the definition of 'bodily injury' which includes pain, and you have to make the assumption from looking at the video that the child may have experienced pain in this incident--if it were not for that, we may not have been able to file any charge against her," said Needham. "While there's certainly improper action, there's no visible injury, and if we tried this case to a jury, we feel there's a good likelihood she might get less than five years deferred adjudication."
The victim's mother says not all injuries are physical.
"A broken bone or an injury like that will heal much quicker than the emotional trauma that it caused him," she said. "In the matter of a day, I lost my child completely: he stopped talking, he couldn't sleep, he had nightmares."
She says when she picked him up the day of the incident, she sensed something was off.
"We knew something was wrong with the way he was acting that day, but we had no clue what was going on, he was just acting really weird, we didn't realize the extent of it," she said.
She says her son was later officially diagnosed with PTSD.
"I couldn't leave his side, I couldn't pass my child to another person without his fingers, claws gripping into my arms so tight," she said. "Mental trauma was very real, and you don't know, as a parent, you worry 'how do I help my child through this, especially when they can't talk about it?'"
She said they found someone in the area qualified enough to handle this type of situation, and after ten months of weekly therapy sessions, he's finally learning to trust people again.
However, she's still wary, especially after seeing Harmmons in court Thursday, she says.
"There was a point she (Hammons) looked directly at me with a smirk on her face, and I knew without a doubt she hasn't lost any sleep over this, I didn't see remorse," the victim's mother said. "I don't think she's sorry, and I really was hoping for that."
Hammons was indicted last month after being arrested in August when, according to a Robinson police affidavit, after seeing video footage of herself abusing the child, she admitted to doing something wrong and that she deserved to be punished.
The victim's parents say Hammons called them on August 9, 2018, about an incident that happened with their son the morning before.
"We thought maybe it was blown out of proportion at first, she (Hammons) indicated she was 'just playing,'" said the victim's mother.
The baby's mom said she didn't believe how bad it was until the mother of the boy who took the video sent it to them.
"I remember the shirt she wore, she hit him, it said 'grannies for God,'" she said. "I didn't think she'd be physically capable of that kind of abuse."
In the video, Hammons can be seen holding the toddler up by both arms and tossing him onto a hardwood floor, later dragging him across the floor by one leg as he cries.
"After she shakes the boy she slaps the back and side of his head roughly six times while saying 'put 'em on the floor dadgummit mind me! Your'e being hateful today!'" the affidavit states.
The baby's mother says, ten months later, the footage still haunts her.
"The images that I saw on the video, they're imprinted on my mind, like I can't forget them," she cried. "When I think about this I see him laying on the floor, and I still see that when I look at him sometimes."
The footage was taken by another child at the daycare, a nine-year-old, who recorded the incident on a tablet and showed his mom.
"We felt many times he's our hero, that at that age, he knew not only that it was wrong, but he did something about it," said the victim's mother.
After the nine-year-old's mother sent the victim's parents the video, they immediately went to Robinson PD to turn Hammons in.
"It changes you, you don't trust anymore, it made me question my faith based off of I felt that was something she took advantage of: when she interviewed us some of the questions she asked were 'do you believe in God, are you Godly people?'" she said.
She used to work full-time, but says she had to quit her job because she can't trust anyone to watch her son.
"It's hard to leave a career you love, I loved what I did, but to struggle financially is much easier than to ever wonder or fear 'oh my gosh, what's going on with my child' when you're at work," she said. "I will never be able to leave my child with anyone....ever."
The parents say their son had been in the daycare for about six months and liked it at first.
"I thought I did everything right, I researched this woman, I asked around, my husband interviewed her...I trusted the wrong person," the victim's mother said.
According to the Child Care Licensing (CCL) division of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), since Oct. 17, 1989, Hammons has been permitted to operate a "Registered Child-Care Home," a type of child care operation which provides care and supervision for no more than six children, age 13 or younger, during school hours.
"We both thought that we had him in this small environment where he was going to get all of this love and all of this attention and we were doing all of the right things that we could for our child, and then to learn we chose her, we trusted her," the baby's mother said.
The type of child care operation Hammons ran required permit renewal every two years, and it had to meet minimum standards during surprise inspections every one-to-two years, however, as of March 26, the daycare is shutdown, according to the HHSC's press office.
In a series of three letters from the HHSC to Hammons from October of 2018 to February of 2019, the agency revokes her permit and says she can't apply for another one for five years.
In the first letter dated Oct. 19, 2018, Hammons is told her operation was recently investigated for "concerns that a child in care was inappropriately disciplined," and it goes on to say the investigation determined that "abuse and neglect occurred" to a child in her care.
The second letter, dated Oct. 30, 2018, says a separate investigation by the Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) determined a child had been physically abused, and therefore, for not meeting minimum standards, the HHSC intended to revoke her permit.
"Your operation's failure to ensure the safety of all the children in your care constitutes an immediate threat of danger to children, including death," the letter reads.
The third letter, dated Feb. 4, 2019, informed Hammons the decision to revoke her permit was final and she was required to notify parents of it by mail, and she couldn't apply to HHSC for a child care permit for five years and, as a result, was also ineligible to be a "controlling person" at a daycare, meaning she can't own, operate, or be in charge of a child care operation unless she applies on or after March 25, 2024 and gets approved.
"Basically, she could go back to child care, it's potential," said the victim's father.
KWTX attempted to speak to Hammons at her home in the 100 block of N. McLendon Dr.; although she was seen on the porch, she wouldn't come to the door.
While she's no longer licensed with the state, it's unclear if Hammons will have to stay away from children completely during her criminal probation and after.
"I need to know no one will ever go through what we went through with him...I need that," said the victim's mother.
The terms of Hammons' probation are waiting to be set.
"You're not out the door when you're put on deferred adjudication; if she doesn't follow the rules of her probation, she can get the maximum of ten years," said Needham.
In Texas, a third-degree felony carries a maximum punishment of two to ten years in prison, according to the state penal code.
"Judges don't always accept plea deals, they sometimes increase sentences," said Needham.
He says, as of right now, the plea agreement offered to Hammons is technically still a "recommendation" until a judge signs off on it.
A probation report, a pre-sentencing investigation which typically includes background on the defendant and victim statements, is currently being compiled on Hammons and the victim's family can talk to the probation department if they want to be included, Needham says.
"In the end, it will be up to the judge to render the sentence he feels is appropriate," said Needham.
He says 54th Dist. Judge Matt Johnson will review the report to decide if Hammons' sentence is proper or not at a final sentencing hearing tentatively set for Aug. 21.
"I mean, it's a real long shot, but if the judge can see it (the video), if he can watch it, maybe he'll think differently," said the victim's father.
He and his wife say they hope the judge will hand down a stiffer sentence based on the spectrum of punishment allowed, not only for their son, but for all current and future victims of child abuse in the state.
"There's no worse crime than somebody who hurts a child," said the victim's mother. "We thought there was no way that anybody would look at what's happening to children with a light eye, and that's not the case, that's not the way it is, something has to change, and if that's all that comes from everything we've been through...it's worth it."