Columbus, OH – An unlicensed daycare provider accused of sexually abusing multiple children over a seven-year period was sentenced to just 30 days in jail on Monday.
Kimberly Hignite, 52, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of misdemeanor child endangerment as part of a plea agreement that the children’s families have denounced, WDIV reported.
She originally faced five charges of gross sexual imposition and 17 counts of child endangerment for allegedly sexually abusing some of the children left in her care between February of 2011 and May of 2018, according to People.
Prosecutors agreed to drop five of the child endangerment charges and three of the gross sexual imposition charges, then reduced the remaining two sexual imposition offenses to child endangerment offenses.
Investigators searched Hignite’s Grove City home in May of 2018, after they received complaints involving two children she was taking care of at her unlicensed daycare.
When police arrived, they discovered Hignite had left 24 children inside her home with her 71-year-old mother, WDIV reported.
The kids were all between the ages of seven months and five years old, and were found unattended, strapped in their car seats in various rooms of the house.
According to prosecutors, at least three of the children told investigators that Hignite made them play the “silly private game,” which involved sexual touching, WBNS reported.
Five of the children’s mothers testified about the abuse the kids suffered while in Hignite’s care during the sentencing hearing on Monday.
One mother discussed described the “silly private game” as "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," WBNS reported.
"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,” the mother told the court.
Another woman said that her infant was left strapped in her car seat in a snowsuit all day, and that she came home “sweating, dehydrated and hungry with awful diaper rashes to the point she was bleeding and I had to take her to the doctor.”
One little girl developed an “anxiety-driven hair-pulling habit” that left her “nearly bald,” another mother testified.
"My heart breaks anytime I think about how my children were left alone, strapped into their car seats crying,” she said.
One mother said that she backed the plea agreement because it was better than nothing.
"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," she told the judge.
"I want the court to know that we accepted this plea deal because I could not allow Ms. Hignite to take away one more moment from my children's lives," the mother of two of the victims testified. "Not one more."
Hignite refused to speak during the hearing, and expressed no remorse.
She faced a maximum of 6 months in jail for each of the 14 counts, but prosecution and defense both recommended that she serve just 30 days in jail.
Franklin County Common Pleas Judge William Woods accepted their joint recommendation, and tacked on a $4,200 fine.
The victims’ families said they were disappointed by the lenient sentence, and called it an injustice, WBNS reported.