When a Florida mother was called to her child’s daycare after the 8-month-old was discovered with unexplained injuries, she knew something wasn’t right. She insisted on seeing the surveillance video from the facility with the police, and that’s when the woman who allegedly abused her baby went on the run.
Steven and Laquiesha Davis enrolled their eight-month-old son Jake at Cuddly Kids Academy in Gainesville, Florida. After 3 months, the mother received a call no parent wants to get. The staff wanted to know if she was aware of a “scar” on her 8-month-old son’s face, according to Inside Edition. Knowing that her little boy should not have any such marks on him, Laquiesha rushed to the facility. What she saw when she got there left her demanding answers.
Jake didn’t have a “scar.” He was bleeding, his face was swollen, his eyes were bloodshot, and his neck and head were bruised. “When I saw my son, I immediately knew that it was child abuse,” Laquiesha said. “When I got there, the director was trying to leave and I told her she wasn’t going anywhere until they told me what was going on with my child,” she added. But, the answers she received didn’t bring her any comfort or reassurance.
According to Laquiesha, the daycare workers said they were unsure what happened to Jake, so she demanded to see the surveillance footage. What she saw only made her stomach churn even more. “I saw my son, I knew right away no infant could do this to my child, it was child abuse,” Laquiesha said. “I saw the video myself, she beat my child, struck him multiple times in multiple different places. Most of his injuries were to his head.”
Indeed, the footage allegedly showed Erica Hall, an employee of the daycare, reaching into Jake’s crib and mashing his face multiple times, Laquiesha explained. She said she saw the woman’s hand rise and fall on her baby’s head at least three times with force so strong that it caused his head to rock. After seeing that the boy had been abused, the cops were called.
“He can’t talk, he can’t walk. What could he have possibly done to deserve this?” Jake’s mother asked after seeing her son being physically assaulted and harmed in the footage. Laquiesha also said he hasn’t been the same since the incident, and she’s furious that the daycare waited two hours to contact her about his injuries. “There’s absolutely no reason these people should have neglected my child in the way they did,” she said.
“It’s like a nightmare,” Laquiesha told ABC News. Making matters worse, after being accused of physically assaulting the 8-month-old baby, Hall fled, charging documents show. “We haven’t been able to sleep. This girl is still out on the run and we won’t be able to sleep until she is arrested,” Laquiesha said. “This is the type of stuff you see on the news all the time, but you pray and hope that it never hits home. Unfortunately, it hit home.”
Investigators say that while they reviewed the video for the first time, Hall left the building and disappeared before police could catch up with her, WCJB reported. According to the Miami Herald, officers with the Gainesville Police Department searched the area but were unable to find her. As their search intensified and authorities and the media called on the public for help, Erica Renee Hall eventually turned herself in. She was briefly held at the Alachua County Jail before she posted bond.
As for Laquiesha, she’s switched her work shift to be able to be home with her children. “I personally don’t know any of the parents but multiple past and current employees have reached out to me letting me know that they’ve also made reports about verbal abuse and physical abuse,” she said. “It was swept up under the rug.”
Officials at Cuddly Kids Academy said they are working with law enforcement to investigate the incident. “We are deeply saddened by the recent incident that occurred at Cuddly Kids Academy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the impacted family,” the daycare said in a statement. “We will continue, as we have from the beginning, to work with the appropriate authorities and regulatory agencies in every way.” Sadly, the daycare should have been working with the surveillance video they had in place to ensure this kind of mistreatment wasn’t taking place.
What doesn’t make much sense, however, is that while Erica Hall was on the run and wanted for child abuse, what appears to be a mug shot of her was used as the police handout, leaving many to wonder what kind of run-in she might have had with the law previous to assaulting this 8-month-old infant and why she was hired by a daycare facility, to begin with. It’s possible the image may have been taken for a work badge, but if that’s the case, it was an eery premonition of things to come.