A day care owner in Ohio accused of sexually abusing children will serve 30 days in prison as part of a plea deal.
Kimberly Hignite, 52, admitted to having sexually inappropriate contact with children in her care at her home in Grove City. She had been charged with five felony counts of gross sexual imposition and 17 counts of endangering children. She pleaded guilty to 14 of the misdemeanor counts. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed five of the child endangerment charges. The other two sexual misconduct charges were lowered to child endangerment charges. For her crimes, she was sentenced Monday to a month in prison and a fine of $4,200.
Hignite had been operating an unlicensed day care out of her home. Police were called to the residence in May 2018 after two children described the abuse they faced, according to The Columbus Dispatch. There, they found 23 children under the sole supervision of Hignite's mother. Officers found children, who ranged from 5 to 11 years old, strapped to car seats and left unattended in separate rooms.
Two of the children said the sexual touching that occurred under Hignite's care was called the "Silly Private Game," according to WCMH of Rockford, Ohio.
In court, parents described Hignite's behavior and the impact it had on their children.
“A game that Miss Kim forced them to play using a tan and blue game board with pictures of private parts and a red spinner,” said one of the mothers, according to WBNS of Columbus, Ohio. “Your Honor, the sound of my autistic son and little girl being able to describe what that grown woman’s vagina looks like and feels like, is something we regrettably will never be able to forget, and honestly something that I can never forgive.”
"One of my girls developed an anxiety-driven hair-pulling habit to the point that she was nearly bald," added another mother. "My heart breaks anytime I think about how my children were left alone, strapped into their car seats crying."
"My infant was left in her winter snowsuit, all day long strapped in her car seat, coming home sweating, dehydrated and hungry with awful diaper rashes to the point she was bleeding and I had to take her to the doctor," said a third mother.
The names of the parents and children are being withheld from the public so as to protect the victims.
Upon her sentencing, one of the parents explained the logic behind the relatively merciful punishment.
"I want the court to know that we accepted this plea deal because I could not allow Ms. Hignite to take away one more moment from my children's lives," said a mother of two victims. "Not one more."
The parents of other victims described the sentence as disappointing.
Prosecutors said that part of the reason the deal was reached was because some families of the victims refused to cooperate with the prosecution.
The maximum time Hignite potentially faced was 180 days.
Hignite will be held at the Richland County jail and will pay for the cost of her incarceration along with the aforementioned fine.
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