|Sophie's ear lacerations from the alleged abuse. Provided.|
That's because on Wednesday December 9, their former babysitter, Desiree Rankin, of Newport, pled guilty to two counts of criminal abuse in the first degree in Campbell County court, for injuries that occurred to both families' infants in her home while she was entrusted with their care.
Both charges are Class C felonies, which can result in a prison term of five to ten years.
Rankin was indicted on the two charges on January 15 of this year for the incident involving Diaz' daughter and March 26 for the incident involving Galvez' son.
According to KRS, criminal abuse is when the guilty party intentionally abuses another person or permits another person of whom he has actual custody to be abused and thereby: (a) Causes serious physical injury; or (b) Places him in a situation that may cause him serious physical injury; or (c) Causes torture, cruel confinement or cruel punishment;to a person twelve (12) years of age or less, or who is physically helpless or mentally helpless.
While Rankin did plead guilty to both charges, she has invoked an "Alford plea."
This means that while she has pled guilty in criminal court, she is not admitting to the criminal act and asserts innocence. The Alford plea, simply means the evidence the prosecution has would be likely to persuade a judge to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Diaz, from Bellevue, said that she was first alerted that the injuries to her now 18-month old, Sophie, might be abuse on the day before Thanksgiving in 2014. She was 6-months old at the time.
"(Rankin) sent a video and then called me a few hours after I dropped Sophie off. She said, ‘Sophie is doing this crazy eye-twitching thing. She won’t take her bottle and her eyes are going crazy.’ The first thing I thought was that she was having a seizure, so I left work and took her to Children’s Hospital."
It's then when doctors began to collaborate with advocates and social workers of the Mayerson Clinic housed within the confines of Children's Hospital, to begin an investigation into the perceived abuse to young Sophie.
"The hospital room was chaos. There were social workers and doctors and police everywhere. It was really nerve-wracking," she said.
Diaz said that right away investigators from the clinic told her that they thought Sophie had been abused. Diaz' first thought was her babysitter, Rankin.
Diaz said that she began taking her daughter to Rankin's home in Newport because her long-time friend, Asha Galvez, had her son there previously, with good experiences. Galvez had known Rankin since they were classmates together at Bellevue High School in Northern Kentucky.
"I've known (Rankin) since we were teenagers. She told me that she had gone to Morehead State for childcare and I knew she had worked at well-known pre-school in Newport, so I thought she was well-trained and qualified to take care of my child," said Galvez. "That’s why I was completely caught off-guard by the allegations of abuse."
Galvez said that after the Mayerson Clinic advocated for Sophie earlier in 2014, they began looking into the other children in Rankin's care, of which there were three, to see if there was potential abuse observed.
According to Galvez, an injury to Julian's mouth was the charge that Rankin would eventually be indicted on. He was 8-months old at the time of his injury.
"(Rankin) said that Julian had unclipped the metal pacifier clip attached to his shirt and had somehow put it into his mouth and closed it back down, which tore his frenulum (the flap of skin that connects the lip to the gum). Rankin rushed him to hospital and the doctor told her she did the right thing. It wasn't until later and talking with the Mayerson Clinic that they told me that was impossible (for Julian to have done that) and that the doctor should have raised a red flag right there," said Galvez. "I kept telling myself that these incidents were accidents and accidents happen in daycare, but they started happening more frequently and more severe and the explanations were always very bizarre."
Diaz, who has quit her job to stay home with her children, said she wants to help advocate for other abuse victim's going forward.
"I’ve held this in for over a year and now that she's pled guilty, I want other people to know about this incident so that they know what signs to look for with child abuse. It’s been such a negative thing that’s happened in our lives and I want to try to turn this into a positive situation for us and others who may be going through this," she said.
Galvez agreed. She said that the families are asking members of the community to support Julian and Sophie at the sentencing hearing on February 2, 2016 at 8:30 a.m. by wearing blue, the color that represents child abuse victims.
"We want the judge to see that we as a community are united on this. These crimes can't be tolerated," said Galvez. "When you trust someone to take care of your children, you shouldn't have to worry about these types of things."
Judge Fred Stine will be reviewing the case and will sentence Rankin, who is still in her home while she awaits her final sentence.
Diaz said her longterm plans also include collaborating with legislators to help craft a child abuse registry, similar to the sexual crime registry.
"When things happen, parents should be able to go and check if the person taking care of their child has a history of abuse," she said.
As for Sophie and Julian, Galvez said initially Julian was petrified of anyone that resembled Rankin, but he is beginning to overcome that.
Rankin has been restricted from caring for other children while she awaits sentencing. Calls to Rankin's legal team have not been returned.
Resources from the Mayerson Clinic.
If your child tells you of abuse, listen to what he or she has to say and report your concerns to the child welfare agency. Younger children may show signs of abuse in the form of injuries that can’t be easily explained as coming from normal childhood accidents.
Some types of injuries are suspicious or indicative of abuse. These include:
-Injuries that occur in a pattern or show the markings of the implement used to inflict the injuries − belts, buckles, cords, cigarette burns
-Immersion burns, in which the child has been dipped in scalding water, which are indicated by sharply defined areas of redness
-Bruises on children who don’t walk yet
-Unexplained fractures, lacerations or abrasions
-Evidence of delayed or inappropriate treatment for injuries
Some behaviors, or behavior changes, may also stem from physical abuse. These include:
-Fear of being at home or running away from home
-Bizarre, inconsistent or improbable explanations of injuries
-Wariness of adult contact and apprehensiveness with others