Children allegedly locked in shed at day care

July 2, 2009 4:35:19 PM PDT
A local mother is talking about what police say happened to her two-year-old daughter while the youngster was at day care Wednesday. Investigators have now charged that day care's owner. It happened in Sealy, west of Houston. Police say the fact a day care center was being run illegally is just the beginning of the owner's problems.

We talked to some parents who have been leaving their kids at the in-home day care and they said they did everything they could to make sure the place was safe. They got on the state's website to check out the family's name and saw there were no complaints.

So they were startled and surprised when they got calls from investigators Wednesday afternoon telling them their kids had been locked and hidden away in an outdoor shed.

Two-year-old Peyton Cooper has the number three stuck to her shirt. She got it while at the day care. It wasn't part of a game, but how investigators counted the number of kids locked in a backyard shed.

"She was in a locked building with absolutely no AC on, weed killer, no adult supervision. I'm glad she lived through it," said Peyton's mother, Casie Cooper.

At 10:30am Wednesday, a Texas Childcare Licensing inspector discovered Marianna and Freddie Patek were operating a day care center illegally out of their home. The Pateks were taking in 14 kids when they were only licensed to care for three kids.

The state inspector conducted a surprise check. In all, six kids were discovered stashed in the storage shed and other infants and kids were found hidden throughout the house, backyard and next door residence.

Parents were called immediately to pick up their children.

"They said she was locked in a shed outside. I just kind of wanted to throw up. My heart just dropped," said parent Amanda Lanza.

Cooper began asking questions to her daughter, "I said, 'Were you in the shed today?' And she said, 'Yes.' And I said, 'Were you scared?' And she shook her head yes."

All the children were checked out by EMS and released.

The Pateks were arrested and now face multiple charges.

"I'm happy they are in jail because I think they are safer there," said Lanza.

After shelling out $110 a week, the parents we talked to don't plan on bringing their kids back.

"I said, 'Do you want to go back to Miss Rita's?' And she said, 'No, I no go back,'" said Cooper of her daughter.

Marietta Patek, 55, is charged with six counts of endangering a child and Freddie Patek, 47, is charged with one count of tampering with evidence. They were both taken to the Austin County Jail.

Keep your kids safe
When deciding on day care for your child, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services recommends you first search online for daycare providers, by entering your requirements. Do your research at TxChildCareSearch.org. You can also call 1-866-TX-CHILD. Also, make sure you visit and interview the person who will be taking care of your child or children.

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