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Day care workers plead guilty in fight case

DOVER, Del.  — Two day care workers charged with encouraging and videotaping a fight between two 3-year-old boys in their care pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony assault and conspiracy charges.

Estefania Myers, 21, and Lisa Parker, 47, both pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and second-degree conspiracy in connection with the March 6 incident at Hands of Our Future day care center in Dover.

Superior Court Judge Robert Young sentenced Myers to 10 years in prison but suspended the sentence for one year of probation, during which she cannot work or volunteer in a day care facility.

Parker’s sentencing is set for Jan. 30, following a pre-sentencing investigation requested by prosecutors.

A third defendant, Tiana Harris, 20, has been offered the same plea deal but has yet to accept it, said deputy attorney general Susan Schmidhauser. Harris’ trial is tentatively scheduled for Monday unless she accepts the plea offer at a final case review that day.

As part of her plea agreement, Myers agreed to testify at Harris’ trial if needed.

The three women were arrested in August after Dover police obtained a cellphone video of the boys fighting.

Police said the video taken by Harris shows one child screaming, crying and holding his face while being punched by the other, who is also punched and shoved into a table. During the fight, Parker allegedly grabbed one of the boys and forced him to continue, and Harris and Myers are shown and heard laughing and encouraging the altercation, investigators have said.

As a tearful Myers stood before Young on Wednesday, defense attorney Adam Windett told the judge that she accepted full responsibility for her actions and was remorseful.

“This was an incident that was truly out of character for her,” Windett said.

Schmidhauser, the prosecutor, described the video as “the most egregious thing I’ve ever seen.”

“It more than shocks the conscience,” she said. “Ms. Myers is laughing while the boys were crying after getting struck. She should be more than embarrassed.”

In a separate civil case, the mothers of the two boys in the video have filed a lawsuit seeking money damages for physical and mental injuries and accusing day care officials, among other things, of assault and battery, false imprisonment, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

State officials in October lifted a suspension of the day care’s license and allowed it to reopen under probation as long as it demonstrates compliance with the state’s child care rules.