Ohio daycare operator charged with sexually abusing children as young as 5 sentenced to just 30 days in jail
As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Kimberly Hignite escaped what would have otherwise been a significant prison sentence.
A central Ohio daycare operator who was charged with sexually abusing children will spend just 30 days in jail after she struck a plea deal with prosecutors, which saw those charges being dropped.
Kimberly Hignite, 52, was arrested in May 2018 after two children at the non-registered daycare she ran out of her former Grove City home claimed she had sexually abused them, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
When police raided the home that same month, they reportedly found 23 children, ranging from ages seven months to five years, inside the residence. Some were strapped in car seats while others were left unattended in separate rooms.
Hignite was not present, with the only adult in the residence her 71-year-old mother, who they said used a walker.
In June 2018, she was indicted on five counts of gross sexual imposition and 17 counts of child endangerment for allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct with children in her care between February 2011 and May 2018.
During her hearing, this past Monday, July 15, at the Franklin County Common Pleas courtroom, the mothers of five of the children testified about how her crimes had impacted their children, reported 10TV.
"One of my girls developed an anxiety-driven hair-pulling habit to the point that she was nearly bald," said one mother. "My heart breaks anytime I think about how my children were left alone, strapped into their car seats crying."
"My infant was left in her winter snowsuit, all day long strapped in her car seat, coming home sweating, dehydrated and hungry with awful diaper rashes to the point she was bleeding and I had to take her to the doctor," said another.
While Hignite denied sexually touching any of the children, prosecutors said three of the children had spoken about playing something she had called the "silly private game."
"A game that Miss Kim forced them to play using a tan and blue game board with pictures of private parts and a red spinner," one mother testified. "Your Honor, the sound of my autistic son and little girl being able to describe what that grown woman's vagina looks like and feels like, is something we regrettably will never be able to forget, and honestly something that I can never forgive."
In a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss three of the gross sexual imposition and five of the child endangerment charges in exchange for her guilty plea to 14 counts of child endangering. They said one of the reasons they agreed to dismiss some of the charges was because families of some of the victims refused to cooperate with them.
But the other victims' parents were still hoping that the 52-year-old would not see freedom for a long, long time.
"If we cannot get the justice we hope for without re-traumatizing our children, I can only beg that you take every possible step to ensure that Kimberly Hignite can never hurt another child again," said one mother.
While Hignite was facing up to 180 days in jail for each of the 14 counts to which she pleaded guilty even with the plea agreement, Judge William Woods accepted a joint recommendation from prosecution and defense and sentenced her to a total of 30 days behind bars.
Hignite will serve out her sentence in the Richland County jail. She will also pay a $2,400 fine and cover the cost of her incarceration out of her pocket.