VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Deputies say they discovered three children inside closed closets at a Virginia Beach daycare after being dispatched to the home to repossess furniture.
According to WTKR, two deputies went to the home on Dylan Drive because the resident, Tanya Jones, had not paid her furniture bill. The address is also where Jones runs her "Little Monkies" in-home daycare, the station reports.
When the deputies walked inside, they said they first noticed Jones was alone with several children who were enclosed in a small, gated area.
“When we entered the home, there were about 7 to 8 toddlers to our right. They were kept in a small area that was gated, with little room to move,” Deputy Natalie Rozos told WTKR. “There was no way one adult could watch all these toddlers."
While employees with the furniture company dismantled Jones' bed, Rozos said Jones walked around the corner and returned with another child.
“When she walked out, I took it upon myself to walk around the corner. I thought there was another connecting bedroom, but there wasn’t,” Rozos said. “It was a pack-and-play in a small closet.”
Rozos told the station she then brought her partner, Deputy Alexandria Wesner, upstairs and called Virginia Beach police, but made another discovery before they arrived.
“While we were up there, I heard crying coming from the closet door, which was closed. All the way in the back of the closet, another small child was in there,” Wesner said. ”I asked Ms. Jones, after she was told what was going on, if there were any more kids anyplace else, and she told me, 'No.'”
But the deputies say they didn't believe Jones.
“I decided to check the other rooms, and I found another kid in a dark closet in a pack-and-play,” Rozos said. “I was relieved we found the third child, because I don’t really even know if (Jones) knew he was in there.”
“She just kept repeating that the parents were aware of it, and that’s how the kids took naps there,” Wesner added.
Disputing that claim, one parent told WTKR she had no clue about the practice until deputies forced the daycare owner to call all the parents.
“I would never have thought something like that would happen,” said Jeanette Mathis, whose 3-year-old son was in the home at the time. “It’s supposed to be a daycare. They are supposed to be taking care of your children, and there is no reason your child should be put in a closet.”
When a WTKR reporter questioned Heather Hamilton, the daycare's co-owner, Hamilton reportedly denied having a business or taking care of children at the home.
WTKR reports the daycare was not licensed, which is a requirement for all home daycare facilities with more than five children.
“At the end of the day, we are mothers and fathers -- and it’s upsetting,” Wesner said.
A total of 13 children were inside the home at the time, deputies told the station.