As many as 12 child abuse complaints now against Gummy Bear Early Learning Center
Two childcare centers closed in wake of investigation
Updated as of Saturday, July 13, 2019 12:24 AM
Authorities are now investigating “eight to 12 complaints of child abuse” in connection with the Gummy Bear Early Learning Center, Prescott Valley Police Sgt. Jason Kaufman said Friday evening, July 12.
That is up from five complaints on Thursday about the Early Learning Center, located in the 8000 block of Manley Drive, Prescott Valley, which has permanently closed, according to the business’ owner.
The owner, Kendra Hagerty, said her other business, Gummy Bear Childcare, which is on Spouse Drive, might not survive the bad publicity either. “I don’t know what the future holds for me at this time,” she said.
Both business locations were visited and searched by Prescott Valley Police Thursday, July 11, as part of an investigation into the alleged abuse of a 3-year-old girl on Tuesday, July 9.
The investigation resulted in the arrest of Prescott Valley resident Chandler Blankenship, 18, who was working at the center on Manley as an assistant teacher. Blankenship, who started working at the center in February 2019, faces charges of child abuse and felony aggravated assault on a minor.
Kaufman said Friday police have more complaints to investigate because more parents came forward. He said investigators are working with the Yavapai Family Advocacy Center in Prescott Valley to determine through interviews and photo lineups who hurt the children.
Kaufman added that he does not know whether Blankenship is involved in the additional cases.
When interviewed, Blankenship admitted to police that he pulled the girl off a sink and she hit her head on the ground, according to the PVPD. He also admitted to slapping her on both sides of her face.
Though security footage didn’t show him hitting the girl, it did show him placing ice on her head and taking her hair out of a ponytail, Hagerty said. “He concealed a lot of her bruising and then lied to several people, including me, about how she got hurt,” Hagerty said.
The girl’s mother noticed the significant bruising on both sides of the girl’s face that night and reported it to the police. She also posted photos of the injuries on social media, which started the ball rolling of parents coming forward, Kaufman said.
Hagerty and her husband, Kris, tried to make amends with the mother, they said Friday. The husband told the Courier that he offered the mother one year of free services at the center, but the mother declined.
As a mother and the owner of the business, Hagerty said she’s outraged with what Blankenship allegedly did. “Everybody at the daycare wants to see Chandler prosecuted,” she said.
Hagerty said Blankenship was cleared to work at the center by Arizona Department of Health Services, which licenses daycare centers and did fingerprint and background checks on him. She added that her only concern when hiring Blankenship was that he was the first man she’d hired; she’d employed only women before.
When asked if she had received any other complaints about Blankenship, Hagerty said she had not, adding that she had received only compliments about him.
Blankenship is out of custody, Kaufman said Friday evening. “We’ve talked to him.”
Kaufman added the police are not advocating street justice – “if anybody goes after him, they will be held accountable too.”
PVPD is asking parents with a child or children who have attended these child care facilities and believe their child may have been abused, please contact the Prescott Valley Police Department at 928-772-9267 to make a report.
(Editor’s Note: A change was made in this story since its original post to update and clarify the narrative.)