PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) -- The Pasco home daycare where a teen was arrested for raping a 3-year-old child was under investigation for similar allegations back in 2013, but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence.
Lucius Gibson, age 16, is the son of a Pasco daycare operator. Gibson was arrested this week, accused of molesting toddlers during nap time at Jacque's Teddy Bear Child Care. The facility is actually an in-home daycare located in an upscale neighborhood in Trinity.
Detectives released information outlining a disturbing case of molestation. Documents show four children were sexually abused.
Gibson is being held for the next 21 days in juvenile detention.
Meanwhile, the Pasco County Sherriff's Office announced there were similar allegations in 2013, where a 4-year-old girl was allegedly abused by the same teenager. Gibson was 13 at the time. That case was eventually dropped due to a "lack of evidence," according to Pasco detectives.
DCF admits sheriff's office info slipped through the system
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office directed News Channel 8 to the Department of Children and Families for questions about the 2013 case and whether DCF was proactive enough.
DCF initially told News Channel 8 the agency was not alerted about the allegations. That claim left the sheriff's office livid. Detectives said they alerted DCF. In fact, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office provided specific paperwork outlining the date, time and details of the information provided to DCF about the investigation.
"DCF threw us under the bus. It's disappointing that they did not check with us before releasing incorrect information to the media. They could have had a more keen eye or scrutiny on the daycare since 2013," a sheriff's office spokesperson said.
The agency then acknowledged it had indeed received information from the sheriff's office. After two days of repeated, unanswered phone calls, DCF finally responded to News Channel 8. An agency spokesperson said the information provided by the sheriff's office slipped through the system and has been subsequently located.
The spokesperson cited a clerical error and apologized for the "confusion." In addition, the spokesperson said the 2013 case did not meet the criteria for a DCF investigation.
Parents left feeling heartbroken, guilty
Their eyes revealed a painful mixture of heartache and guilt Thursday. They were nervous, yet they walked in the door with resolve and determination.
These two parents had something very important to say. They had powerful questions to ask. They want to know why.
This mother and father, filled with grief and frustration, asked why they weren't informed that an accused child molester, Gibson, had been under investigation for allegedly sexually abusing toddlers before.
For three years these parents sent their children to Jacque's Teddy Bear Child Care. They trusted the daycare and researched it before bringing their kids. They asked for references before making the critical decision to entrust the owner with their children's lives.
Yet, this mom and dad say they were never warned about prior claims against Gibson. The mother's hands were shaking as she spoke, on the condition of anonymity, about her shock and anger over the lack of disclosure and transparency.
"Had we known this was going on, we obviously would have immediately taken action and removed our children from this environment and warned any parents we could," she said.
This mom and dad tell us they are racked with guilt that they continued to send their children to this daycare amidst an alleged monster. They wish they would've known so they could've done something differently.
"We took every step necessary to assure our children's safety, but we could not obtain information that was hidden from us. And now, our children have been subjected to this environment for at least three years," the mother told News Channel 8.
The couple's attorney, Peter Tragos, talked about how heartbroken his clients feel.
"They are mortified. The choice was taken from them to do anything because they were not given the information," Tragos said. "These parents did the research. They did everything they could."
"Any chance that some allegation is made, I really think that DCF would want to get as much information as possible to dot all their I's and cross all their T's in an investigation," he added.
For now, the Pasco daycare remains closed. It will be for at least 90 days. While detectives continue investigation, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office could possibly file charges, including neglect, against Gibson's mom.