Day-care workers charged with child abuse by hot sauce
BY SHEILA STOGSDILL World Correspondent
Monday, April 16, 2012
4/16/12 at 6:14 PM
OKEMAH — Two Creek Nation day care workers were charged with child abuse after police said they put hot sauce on a toddler’s plate of green beans and then laughed as the child screamed and cried after eating the meal.
Tracy Owens, 36, of Boley and Rosie Hicks, 49, of Okemah were charged last week in Okfuskee County District Court. Owens was charged with child abuse by injury, and Hicks faces two counts of child abuse by injury, court records show.
The women do not have published telephone numbers and could not be reached for comment.
A woman who answered the phone at the Muscogee Creek Nation Child Development Center declined to comment on the allegations.
Okemah Police Chief Ed Smith Jr. said it appears that jealousy was behind the cruel treatment of the toddler.
“One of the (day-care) workers had taken a special interest in the toddler, and this made the others (workers) mad,” Smith said.
Smith said the victim was not related to any of the day care’s employees. However, because the other day-care workers were jealous, they took it out on the toddler, he said.
There were eight workers and 10 children present on March 7, the day of the incident, he said.
A 66-minute video of the incident shows the 13-month-old child crying and Hicks laughing, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Hicks prepared the meals for all the children but laced the victim’s green beans with hot sauce, the affidavit states.
Owens confessed to police that she bought a bottle of habanero hot sauce at Hicks' request and watched her put the sauce on the toddler’s lunch plate. Owens told police that the child began crying because he was burning and in pain, the affidavit states.
The video shows Hicks laughing before the workers wiped the toddler’s mouth with a wet cloth, the affidavit states.
Hicks told police she knew that she had done wrong but did so because of the stress at work, the affidavit states. She also admitted to police that she caused the toddler to fall down by pushing away a table the child was using to hold himself up with, the affidavit states.
Owens could not give a reason for her participation in giving hot sauce to the child, the affidavit states.
Telephone calls to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation tribal headquarters were unreturned. But Mark Beutler, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, said the women are no longer employed by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Child Development Center. The day care has been licensed with DHS since 2005, he said.
“Our child-care licensing division initially investigated, and the center voluntarily began cooperating,” Beutler said.
The Okfuskee County Sheriff’s Office said Owens was released on $10,000 bail and Hicks on $20,000. They are scheduled to be back in court April 19, court records show.
Tracy Owens and Rosie Hicks