Daycare Owner Arrested For Child Neglect

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Press Release: Quincy Police Department

On Monday, October 28th at 2:27PM Quincy Police Officer Harold Barber responded to a call at the “Precious Gems” Daycare located at 803 East Jefferson Street. Once on scene the officer made contact with a mother who was there to pick up her three year old daughter due to a call from the daycare owner earlier to come and pick the child up.

The mother told the officer that the door to the daycare was locked and the lights were off giving her the impression that no one was there. The mother contacted members of her family and inquired if any of them had picked up her daughter prior to her arrival and she was told that none of them had picked up the child.

After knocking loudly on the door of the business an audible alarm began to sound and soon thereafter the woman’s three year old daughter appeared at a window inside the dark business alone and crying. The Quincy Fire Department Rescue Unit force open a door to the business and Officer Barber retrieved the child who was obviously frightened but appeared unharmed.

The owner and employee of the facility could not be located on this date. The following day Quincy Police CID Investigators did contact the owner, Mrs. Willa T. Nelson, and conduct a criminal interview with her at police headquarters. Nelson told investigators that on the date in question she had a doctor’s appointment and that she called the parents of the children at 1:25PM and told them to pick their kids up by 2:00PM.

Nelson went on to say that she did not account for the three year old child before leaving the facility but did not do this intentionally. When asked if something like this had ever happened before Mrs. Nelson stated that there was an incident in 2005 but she couldn’t recall the details. Investigators later determined that in 2005 a child had been left unattended on the facilities playground. That case was forwarded to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

On Wedneday, October 30th a criminal arrest warrant was issued for the arrest of Mrs. Nelson for “Child Neglect”. Nelson did turn herself in to the Gadsden County Jail later that day and was booked and released on her own recognizance until her later court date.

Arrested: Willa Tribue Nelson, DOB: 04-28-38, of 427 East Circle Drive, Quincy.

Charge: Child Neglect

Anyone having additional information on this case is asked to contact QPD Criminal Investigation Division, Capt. Troy Gilyard, at (850) 627-0140.

Mrs. Nelson’s photo can be obtained by contacting the Gadsden County Detention Facility website.

By: Garin Flowers
October 30, 2013

Authorities in Quincy arrested Willa Tribue-Nelson, 75, Wednesday for child neglect. She's accused of leaving a three-year-old girl alone and locked inside Precious Gems, the daycare she owns in Gadsden County.

"The officers and the state attorneys office, after careful consideration and review of Florida statute, did feel that there was a clear case of child neglect that occurred here," said Glenn Sapp, Quincy Police Department assistant chief.

The alleged incident took place Monday. The mother of the child said parents were asked to pick their kids up by 2 p.m.

She said she got there a little before then, but saw Nelson's car was gone and the lights were off inside.

"I started to panic, I was getting nervous, I started calling my family members seeing if they got my baby, but everyone was saying no," she said, wanting to remain anonymous.

That's when she said her three-year-old ran up to the window crying.

"My heart just dropped," the mother said.

"This is an unfortunate situation for all involved, but as law officers we're sworn to protect our children," Sapp said.

A spokeswoman for Precious Gems said it was all a mistake.

"She was devastated, she was completely devastated. No daycare worker who has been working with children for 13 years ever wants to mistakenly leave a child inside a building all alone," said Leslie Steele, representative for Precious Gems.

Nelson was taken to the Gadsden County Jail and was released on her own recognizance Wednesday.

"She was very cooperative and remorseful about the situation," Sapp added.

The Department of Children and Families are also investigating. For now, Quincy police said the doors of Precious Gems will be closed until further notice.

By: Bailey Myers
October 29, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - 'It was a mistake.' That is what representatives from a local day care are saying after a three year old was locked inside the school. Police in Quincy are investigating Precious Gems Daycare Center.

Representative for Precious Gems Leslie Steele, "This wasn't anything done on purpose or anything like that. It was just a situation that took place. And you just tell that parent profusely that I'm sorry that this happened to your child."

Precious Gems says no one intended on a three year old getting locked inside the day care Monday afternoon, but that is exactly what happened. The mother of the trapped child explained, "Okay when I got here I noticed that her car was gone and the lights were off. I was ringing the doorbell and nobody came."

That's when her three year old ran up to the window crying. The Quincy Police are now piecing together what happened that day to find out who-- if anyone is at fault. Quincy Police Department Assistant Chief, Glenn Sapp explained, "That's really the crux of what we are trying to get to here. Was there knowledge or was there criminal intent to endanger a child."

Steele later said, "There were some policies and procedures that we are now reviewing that have to be explored and looked at because a child was left."

We have been told the owner of Precious Gems, Willa Tribue Nelson is cooperating with Police and the Department of Children and Families as this investigation unfolds. For now the doors of Precious Gems will stay locked and unanswered.

The mother of the trapped child explained, "I thought I could trust this daycare but I see that I can't... Can't trust no one."
Precious Gems Daycare stay closed the rest of this week.

The Quincy Police Department has informed us they will be submitting all the details of this investigation to the State Attorney's Office tomorrow morning. The State Attorney's office will then decided if any criminal charges will be filed.

By Julie Montanaro
October 29, 2013

A spokesperson for Precious Gems Day Care says the center will be closed down for the rest of the week and the owner is fully cooperating with both the police and DCF investigations.

A three year old was found locked inside the day care alone Monday afternoon.

Spokeswoman Leslie Steele says the owner, Willa Nelson, is devastated. She says Nelson is the only employee there right now and cares for five children.

Steele says parents had been notified that the day care would be closing early Monday afternoon and children needed to be picked up by 2pm. Steele says parents also got a follow up phone call to remind them.

Steele says she cannot comment on how long the child had been left alone. When asked how something like this could happen, Steele says all that is under investigation. Steele says she could not comment on whether the owner kept an in/out sign in sheet or whether she had checked it on Monday.

Steele says Nelson is working to improve policies and procedures to try to ensure this can never happen again.

Steele says Nelson has been in business at that location for 13 years and intends to re-open.

The Department of Children and Families web site shows Precious Gems was in compliance during its most recently inspection on February 7, 2013.

By: Bailey Myers
October 28, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - The Quincy Police Department was called to the 'Precious Gems Daycare' around 2:30pm Monday after a distraught mother called saying her three-year-old daughter was stuck inside.

The mother of the child said, "I was ringing the doorbell and nobody came." This mother, who prefers to stay anonymous, says the lights were off and doors locked when she came to pick up her three year old daughter from Precious Gems Daycare.

"I stamped on the door and everything. And my baby came running to the window crying . And my heart just dropped," Mother of Trapped Child explained. With her child locked inside, she dialed 911. Quincy Police arrived shortly and were able to get her three-year-old out safely.

Quincy Police say the child was the only person in the building at that time. Quincy Assistant Police Chief, Glenn Sapp said, "The next steps in this investigation are to interview the employees at this daycare and to get a timeline and find out just what happened."

The mother says the daycare called her that day to pick her daughter early at 2:00 but when she got there right before two, the building was already locked up. Police are still trying to contact the owner and manager to find out how this happened. Representatives with Precious Gems tell WCTV they will not be giving a statement at this time.

The young girl's cousin said, "If it was a parent leaving a child in the home they would have got her but now that it's a business they act like they can't do anything." Her mother explained, "I'm very scared with leaving her with anyone now."

Florida's Department of Child and Families has been notified. We're told they will be conducting their own investigation. For now there is no word on whether or not Precious Gems will be open for business tomorrow.

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