Felony Child Abuse Charge Filed Against Former Berlin Daycare Worker; Woman Also Facing 14 Assault Counts

Felony Child Abuse Charge Filed Against Former Berlin Daycare Worker; Woman Also Facing 14 Assault Counts
Video footage from the Berlin Activities Depot/Education Station documented the alleged assault and child abuse. File Photo

A Berlin daycare worker is facing assault and child abuse charges after an eight-month-old baby was brought to the hospital with a broken leg.

While the investigation is ongoing and more charges are likely, on Feb. 20 Berlin resident Heather Lynn Ward, 39, was charged with 14 counts of second-degree assault and one felony count of second-degree child abuse. The charges stem from Ward’s time in an infant classroom at Berlin Activities Depot/Education Station.

According to charging documents, police launched an investigation in November regarding an eight-month-old female who’d been diagnosed with a broken tibia at Atlantic General Hospital. The child’s mother told investigators she’d been fine prior to attending daycare at Berlin Activities Depot/Education Station Nov. 1. Investigators visited the childcare facility and met with its director as well as the child’s teachers in the “Baby Buzzing Bees” classroom, which according to the Berlin Activities Depot website is for children between 21 and 40 weeks old. Staff told investigators they were unaware of an incident when the child was injured, according to court documents.

It was at that point, however, that investigators requested video surveillance for any classroom the child had been in on Nov. 1. The video showed several interactions noted in court documents, including several instances when Ward hit the child. According to charging documents, at 9:47 a.m., “Ward hit (the child) with her left hand twice and then used her right hand and struck (the child) five times….”

According to court documents there were interactions with other children on the video that were concerning. When investigators met with administration at Berlin Activities Depot, they asked that Ward be removed from the classroom until the investigation was complete.

“Ward was placed on leave and eventually terminated,” charging documents read.

On Nov. 14, a doctor determined the child’s injury was an “impact/compression injury” referred to as a buckle fracture.

“He stated a significant amount of force was applied to her heel to cause the injury,” charging documents read.

When police met with Ward and showed her the video in December, “Ward said she never intended to hurt any of the children,” according to charging documents, and she did not cause the fracture to the baby’s leg.

“Ward stated from what she saw in the videos that I showed her, she didn’t believe she broke the ‘kids’ leg,” charging documents read. “She was told by the staff at the Education Station that it didn’t look like she broke her leg.”

At that point parents of other children in Ward’s classroom on Nov. 1 were shown video of their children’s interactions with Ward, and in mid-January, police obtained video for the Bees classroom during Oct. 1 to Nov. 13. The charging documents go on to identify numerous interactions between Ward and the victim. An incident on Oct. 23 allegedly occurred when Ward was standing next to the victim’s crib.

“(The child) moved in her crib. Ward immediately turned and pushed down on (the child’s) body twice. 12:05:25— (The child) moved again, Ward pushed down on (the child’s) body and then slapped her twice. Ward repositioned (the child) so her head was at the opposite end of the crib. 12:08:16—Ward punched (the child) on the head area two times and slapped her,” according to charging documents.

As of Thursday, Ward was being held without bond following a bail review in Worcester County District Court Thursday morning. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 19 in District Court.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.