A waitress’ Facebook post led police to a couple accused of abusing a young child.
Jordan Cooper, 21, was working at Olive Garden when she noticed something wrong with a family with two young children that was seated at a table.
“The first time I walked around to the baby, she looked at me with a face that said ‘help,’ you know?” Cooper told WPSD. “Beat up — like I can’t even describe to you how bad she looked and how and why nobody else noticed it.”
Cooper, who is expecting a child, sprang into action and decided to take a staged photo with customers at a nearby table, and captured a man feeding the child in a highchair.
“I had slid them my number and they sent them [the photos] to me as soon as they walked out the door,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the couple noticed they were being watched and abruptly left the restaurant. She took a photo of their vehicle, which included its license plate, and called police. Then she took to Facebook to ask for help identifying the family.
“I had a couple that came in with a child that was [severely] beaten in the face,” Cooper wrote in the now-deleted post. “Her face was black and blue all over. The guy in this picture was force-feeding her food down her throat and grabbing her by her shirt and getting in her face.”
“I couldn’t serve [the family] because my heart hurt so bad,” Cooper continued. “I called [Kentucky’s Department of Children and Family Services] and hopefully something gets done. He kept taking her to the bathroom when she cried and [acted] very aggressive towards her.”
The post was shared more than 49,000 times and was eventually seen by Cooper’s childhood classmate, Aaron Caldwell who works as a 911 dispatcher.
“I got everything so I could run him and figure out where he lived at. Who he was. Found that and ended up contacting Paris Police Department in Tennessee and even look further into it to find his girlfriend,” Caldwell said.
Paris police identified the couple as Mark Pierce, 33, and Jessica Woodworth, 36 and visited the family at their home.
“They observed bruising on the child that they believed to be abuse,” Paris police investigator Derrek Colley told BuzzFeed News.
The 20-month-old was taken to a local hospital, then placed into the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
Pierce and Woodworth were arrested on charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect and booked into the county jail, where they’re being held on a $200,000 bond each.