Local child care provider pleads guilty

By: 
Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

Guilty plea filed for battery, reckless supervision

Regina Sabens, 49, Salem, pled guilty Washington County Circuit Court to charges of battery causing bodily injury, a Level 5 felony, and reckless supervision by a child care provider, a Class A misdemeanor.

The battery incident was from December 2018 (Sabens’s arrest and charges were filed in January 2019), and the incident of reckless supervision listed in the state police report, filed on Feb. 20, took place in December 2019.

On the morning of Dec. 4, 2019, State Police Detective Travis Baker arrived at The Learning Center Preschool and Childcare on East Hackberry Street in Salem. Baker said in his report Sabens met him at the door and said she knew why he was there.

She said two days before, she arrived at the daycare at 10:30 a.m., but left at 1:30 p.m. due to back pain. At some point that day, she said, a child was being “whiny” and didn’t want to do the things the other children were doing. The report says she told Baker she warned the child she would spank him if he didn’t do what he was supposed to do. When the child continued whining, she said she put him in time-out. She said she did not spank the child and has never spanked any children in her daycare.

Sabens said the child’s parents asked about bruises they had noticed on the child. She said the father was furious and wouldn’t listen to anything she said. She said she had three employees present the day of the incident, but who had quit the following day, Dec. 3, because of the incident. Sabens said one employee, Ruth Moore, was the only person who could be responsible for the bruising.

Sabens and her attorney, Melissa Campbell, said she would not be submitting to a stipulated polygraph test.

The following day, Baker went to speak to the parents of the child who had shown bruising. The mother said she had two children enrolled at The Learning Center daycare and had been there for about a month at that point. She said, on Dec. 2, she dropped her children off at 7:30 a.m. and went to work. Throughout the day, she said, she received text messages from Moore, who said her son was doing well at preschool and everything was going well.
The mother said her mother later asked if she could pick up both children from daycare and take them to her father’s home in Georgetown, and the children’s grandmother picked them up at 4 p.m. When they got to Georgetown, the child’s grandmother went to change his diaper when she noticed a large bruise on his buttock. She texted the children’s mother, asking what had happened.

The children’s great-grandfather, who they had gone to see in Georgetown, later told Baker he had never seen the children’s grandmother (his daughter) or the children’s parents spank the children and said he believed it must have happened at the daycare.

The mother told Baker she contacted Moore immediately, continuing to say she trusts Moore completely and believes she would never do anything to harm her children. Moore told her Sabens removed the boy from the room and other children “for discipline.” The mother then called Sabens, who denied spanking the child. The mother told Baker she believed Sabens abused prescription drugs and alcohol and had been getting progressively more aggressive with children. She said she didn’t believe Moore or the other two employees would ever spank the children.

Baker spoke to Moore on Dec. 4. She told him she had worked at The Learning Center for eight years and had been watching the boy until the children went into their smaller groups for class. She said the boy was crying and whining when he had to leave Moore and join another group of kids within the daycare.     

She said she didn’t see Sabens remove the boy from the room, but said Sabens had removed kids from class to spank them in the past. She said she believed Sabens caused the bruising by spanking him because of her past behavior.

Moore said she changed the boy’s diaper at about 2:40 p.m. and didn’t see bruising at that time.

Another employee corroborated Moore’s story. Baker went to speak with Lee Ann Cook, who said she had been working at The Learning Center for about four months. She said the boy was whining and didn’t want to leave Moore’s group. Cook said Sabens removed the boy for discipline and brought him back. She said the third time Sabens spoke to the boy, she said if she had to remove him again, he would be spanked. Cook said the boy didn’t calm down and Sabens removed him from the room and took him into the office. Five minutes later, the boy came back out and was no longer crying. Baker said in his report that Cook told him she believed Sabens took the boy into the office to spank him and has seen Sabens spank kids in the past, and as recently as a week prior.

Another employee said she didn’t have much interaction with the boy and didn’t see anything, as she usually works in the toddler room, but said she has seen Sabens spank children in the past.

All three of the employees told Baker they quit their jobs on the evening of Dec. 3, after learning of the bruises.

“All three stated that they believe that Ms. Sabens caused the bruises on [the boy] and they could no longer work for her,” Baker’s report read.

Sabens was also arrested and charged with battery resulting in bodily injury in Jan. 2019, following an altercation with another adult on Dec. 23, 2018. According to a Salem Leader story from the time, she was accused of grabbing another woman’s head and hitting it down on her counter during an argument after she and some friends went out for drinks at the Salem Moose Lodge.

Records show a plea agreement regarding these cases was filed on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.

She spent seven days in jail and was sentenced to 365 days for the battery, with 351 suspended. She was sentenced to another 365 days for the reckless supervision charge. This totals a 730-day sentence, with 351 days suspended. She will receive 351 days of probation and will pay restitution to her battery victim, along with other fees. If she completes her probation, she may petition to reduce the felony battery charge to a misdemeanor and modify the sentence she is receiving on the reckless supervision case to require no additional executed or probated sentence.

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