Last updated at 6:15 a.m.
AUBURNDALE, Fla. (WFLA) — An Auburndale daycare worker charged with child abuse was fired from another Polk County preschool earlier this year after a parent accused her of similar aggressive behavior.
Auburndale police say they started investigating allegations of child abuse at Lit’le Bloodhound Preschool on July 31. Detectives worked with the owner of the preschool and contacted the parents and guardians of potential victims.
During the investigation, detectives say they reviewed hours of surveillance video and eventually confirmed five preschool children were victims of child abuse.
Detectives say they found Wilkerson, on two separate occasions, had yanked a child who was sitting in a chair by the arm to move the child to another table.
On three separate occasions, Wilkerson is accused of covering the mouth, nose and chin of a child, forcing the child’s head back to make them look toward the ceiling. She apparently also would squeeze the child’s cheek and make the child cry.
Parent Emily Dimsdale says she tried to sound the alarm about Wilkerson in early April. At the time, Wilkerson was working at Winterset Preschool in Winter Haven where Dimsdale’s 2-year-old son goes to daycare.
“I saw the name and I was like, oh my god, that’s her,” Dimsdale said, upon seeing the news of Wilkerson’s arrest.
Dimsdale says she walked in to pick her son up one day only to watch Wilkerson slam the boy into a chair and yell in his face. The incident left a mark on the boy’s shoulder.
She reported the incident to DCF and Winter Haven police. WHPD confirms investigators interviewed Dimsdale and Wilkerson, but when they went to check for surveillance video, found cameras inside the daycare were not recording during the time.
Without video evidence, they dropped the case.
“All these kids,” Dimsdale said tearfully. “I’m sure there’s more, there’s probably more kids and their parents have no idea.”
Wilkerson was fired but a couple weeks later, applied to work at Lit’le Bloodhound. According to Auburndale police, that same night Wilkerson was arrested for drunkenly trespassing and hitting a cop.
Jail records show Wilkerson has been arrested numerous times in Polk County since 2012.
Dimsdale says there should be stronger measures in place to make sure someone like that isn’t taking care of kids.
“I just hope they start to pick up on the issues a lot sooner,” she said.
Winterset Preschool did not return multiple requests for comment Wednesday.
8 On Your Side also reached out to DCF representatives to inquire if Wilkerson has faced other complaints with the agency and why she was qualified to work at a daycare in the first place. We are still waiting for a response.