A daycare owner convicted of child endangerment will only spend 30 days in jail. Three children accused Kimberly Hignite of sexual abuse while in her care.
According to a report on WBNS, Kimberly Hignite ran an unlicensed daycare in Columbus, Ohio. When authorities searched the home in May 2018, they found 24 children with one adult, Hignite’s 71-year-old mother.
Police said many of the children were strapped in car seats and left unattended in separate rooms. The ages of the children ranged from 5-months to 5-years old. At the time of her arrest, prosecutors said that Hignite involved three of the children in sexual touching. Hignite told the children the touching was a gam. The children told prosecutors Hignite called it the “Silly Private Game.”
In June 2018, a court indicted Hignite on 17 counts of child endangerment and five counts of gross sexual imposition. According to court records, the crimes occurred between 2011-2018.
After more than a year of court proceedings, Hignite accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors. As a part of the plea agreement, the prosecutors dropped three counts of sexual imposition and five counts of child endangerment. Prosecutors reduced the remaining sexual imposition charges to child endangerment.
During her sentencing, parents of the victims read statements to the court. A mother shared with the court that her daughter suffered terrible anxiety as a result of the abuse she experienced by Hignite.
“One of my girls developed an anxiety-driven hair-pulling habit to the point that she was nearly bald,” said one mother. “My heart breaks anytime I think about how my children were left alone, strapped into their car seats crying.”
Another mother described the touching, sexual game that Hignite forced her children to play. She cried as she read her statement to the court.
“A game that Miss Kim forced them to play using a tan and blue game board with pictures of private parts and a red spinner,” said another mother. “Your Honor, the sound of my autistic son and little girl being able to describe what that grown woman’s vagina looks like and feels like, is something we regrettably will never be able to forget, and honestly something that I can never forgive.”
A mother of an infant described how Hignite left her daughter in a snowsuit all day. The woman told the court that her daughter developed a terrible diaper rash that bled.
One of the parents told the court that they accepted the plea deal to protect their children from testifying at a trial. The mother begged the court to take steps to ensure Hignite could not harm any other children.
“My infant was left in her winter snowsuit, all day long strapped in her car seat, coming home sweating, dehydrated and hungry with awful diaper rashes to the point she was bleeding and I had to take her to the doctor,” said a third mother.
“If we cannot get the justice we hope for without re-traumatizing our children, I can only beg that you take every possible step to ensure that Kimberly Hignite can never hurt another child again,” pleaded one mother.
During the statements of the parents, Hignite cringed and shook her head. She sat defiantely and appeared to have no remorse for her actions. When the judge asked her to speak, Hignite declined to make a statement.
Based on sentencing guidelines for the charges, Hignite faced 180-days in jail for each charge of child endangerment. The court could have sentenced her to a combined 6.9 years in prison. Instead, the judge accepted the joint recommendation of prosecutors and the defense of 30-days in jail.
After the hearing, many families expressed outrage about the sentence. Several parents called the 30-day sentence an injustice. However, prosecutors said that many families refused to cooperate with the case which meant many charges were dropped or reduced. Without cooperation from all families, the strength of the case fell apart.
Hignite will spend 30-days in county jail, pay for her incarceration, and pay a fine of $4,200.00. All of these penalties seem like a slap on the wrist to all victims involved. This case proves the point that victim cooperation is critical to ensure predators receive the maximum sentence.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
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