Rong Liu: Daycare owner held for child abuse after she 'pulled head and neck' of 3-year-old boy

Liu was taken into custody following a two-month investigation during which authorities determined she was physically abusive with children in her care

Rong Liu: Daycare owner held for child abuse after she 'pulled head and neck' of 3-year-old boy
Rong Liu is the owner and director of a Florida daycare school (Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office)
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ODESSA, FLORIDA: The owner and director of a Florida daycare school was arrested Friday, August 19, 2022, after deputies learned that a child was being abused at the institution. Rong Liu, 51, was taken into custody following a two-month investigation during which authorities determined that Liu was physically abusive with children in her care at Children's Land of Imagination Academy in Odessa, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said, according to People

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Detectives confirmed that when Liu attempted to put a child down for a nap, she "forcefully pushed and pulled the head and neck of the victim with her hand," the sheriff’s office said in a statement. "She was seen placing both of her legs across the top of the child's body to try and hold him down," the statement said. "The child victim was crying and flailing their legs throughout the incident."

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The first report of Liu, known as "Ms Judy" to the children who enrolled at the Odessa-based daycare, being abusive was made to police on June 20. Liu was arrested after a nearly two-month-long investigation, the statement explained. She was charged with one count of child abuse. According to the site of the Children's Land of Imagination Academy, it is a family-owned company. “Our philosophy is: We believe that children deserve a safe, caring, challenging, and enriching learning environment where a child can feel valued and enjoy him/herself,” the preschool states on its website. 

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Kelly Autrey and Kenneth Boggs enrolled their 3-year-old son at the Children’s Land of Imagination Academy in January. Six months later, Autrey said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detectives and the Department of Children and Families called her and named their son as a victim of abuse.

“I was told every time that he would bite, the owner would smack him across the face or in the mouth to reprimand him for the biting and we definitely don’t agree with,” Autrey said, WFLA reported. “Whenever he was corrected for anything, I would tell him no dude you can’t do that; he would then smack himself in the face, throw himself on the ground and start crying,” Boggs said. 

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Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister called the allegations "sickening." Chronister said that investigators learned that Liu "is known to treat her students harshly and roughly." The child's parents said the behavior was learned from the abuse at the hands of Judy. In late June, Boggs and Autrey said they immediately pulled their son from the pre-school. “Ms Judy was laughing,” said Autrey when confronting the owners about the alleged abuse. “She goes, ‘oh my God they said something about child abuse?’ like I had no idea. You had three detectives in the building you had no idea any of this was happening?”

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Boggs and Autrey’s son is non-verbal. Boggs said he believed that Liu was targeting children who couldn’t use their voices to tell what was going on at the school. “They were holding down an autistic boy, who once again, was not verbal and wasn’t able to tell mommy and daddy afterward that they were doing this, much like him,” Boggs said. “It makes me feel terrified we can’t protect our children 100% of the time, so we have to and trust those people, and then they violate our trust by targeting children that can’t stand up and speak for themselves. The definition of their job is a caretaker for children, and that’s exactly what they’re not so it’s disturbing.”

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Later on Tuesday, August 23, the sheriff's office charged Tara Ballou, a 28-year-old teacher from the same daycare who worked with Liu, with a single child abuse count. Online records show Ballou is being held on a $2,000 bond and has yet to appear in court or enter a plea. 

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

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