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Hall day care’s license revoked over burned toddler

Cases moving forward for 3 women facing charges in case

POSTED: July 11, 2014 11:53 p.m.

Sue Dupree

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The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning issued a license revocation Friday for a Clermont day care center accused of burning a toddler as three of the day care workers’ criminal cases move to Superior Court.

Discovering Basics received the order Friday afternoon after a three-week investigation by the state child care agency. On June 20, DECAL issued an order for intended emergency closure, determining the children attending Discovering Basics were in “imminent danger.”

Discovering Basics closed the Tuesday after the emergency closure order was sent, intending to appeal. The center later withdrew its appeal.

The center has 10 days to file an appeal. If an appeal is filed, the case will be heard by a judge in the Office of State Administrative Hearings.

Graham McKinnon, attorney for Discovering Basics owner Minnie “Sue” Dupree, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Parents affected by the order can visit or call the toll-free number 1-877-ALLGAKIDS for help finding a new child care option.

“At DECAL, our top priority is the health and safety of our state’s young learners, ages birth to 5 years old,” said Reg Griffin, chief communications officer for DECAL, in a statement provided to The Times.

Dupree, 66, site director Tara Miller, 40, both of Gainesville, and employee Eddye Pittmon, 55, of Talmo appeared in Hall County Magistrate Court on Friday morning, when Chief Judge Margaret Gregory decided there was sufficient evidence to move the cases on to Superior Court.

Pittmon is charged with child cruelty in the first degree in the burning of 16-month-old Damon Gaddis. Dupree is accused of influencing testimony, having allegedly intimidated an employee into destroying photographic evidence. Tara Miller faces a charge of child cruelty in the second degree, allegedly knowing of the injuries and not seeking medical attention for the child. Tara Miller is Dupree’s daughter.

Damon was evaluated to have second- and third-degree burns on his lower stomach and left leg. Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes said the injuries were determined to be the result of a water burn.

The sheriff’s office served a search warrant on Discovering Basics on June 17.

“We found a Crock-Pot in the infants’ room where Damon and the other children were present that day,” sheriff’s office investigator Angela Miller said.

The water inside the slow cooker was 161 degrees, Angela Miller said.

Photos of the child were taken at 9:53 a.m. June 13, after Pittmon discovered feces on his back. Investigators interviewing multiple employees present that day said the injury was not present at the time of the photos. Angela Miller said the suspected time frame for the alleged injury, based on the investigation, is in the 12 minutes after the photos were taken.

Troy Millikan, attorney for Pittmon, argued it is possible for a burn to occur hours before it becomes visible.

The Division of Family and Children Services has been involved with the Gaddis family before, Angela Miller said.

“It’s more realistic to think that it did (happen earlier) and they can’t say how it happened in this case,” Millikan said after the hearing.

Dupree was not at the day care on June 13, the day the burn allegedly happened, and only learned of the injuries two days later, McKinnon said. Tara Miller also was not present at the time the burn allegedly happened, coming in to the day care around noon to pass out paychecks.

The influencing testimony charge against Dupree results from a conversation between Dupree and an employee at Discovering Basics. An employee had taken pictures of Damon’s leg and sent them to fellow employees electronically.

Dupree allegedly approached the employee later, saying if the photos were not deleted, everyone at the day care would lose their jobs, Angela Miller said.

McKinnon and Tara Miller’s attorney, Jeff Talley, both called the ruling by Gregory “disappointing.” Millikan said he considered the investigation and presentation of evidence to be based in “guesswork.”

“It’s a case in which as soon as we get to trial and can bring our character witnesses out, I feel sure that they’ll find her not guilty,” Millikan said.

Mike Weaver, attorney for Damon’s mother, Megan Seabolt, called the mention of Seabolt’s history with DFCS “irrelevant,” adding there was no surprise when the case moved to Superior Court based on the evidence collected by investigators.

Following the decision to move the cases along to Superior Court, the defendants and their attorneys made motions to make changes to their bond agreements. The bond agreement includes provisions that prevent all three defendants from possession of weapons or having any contact with Discovering Basics or its employees. The defendants also cannot have unsupervised contact with children younger than 18 with the exception of their own biological children.

Millikan made a motion to allow Pittmon to have contact with her godchild. Talley made similar motions in respect to the gun restriction and to also allow Miller to perform necessary managerial functions in terms of the day care.


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