by: Gary Horcher Updated:
COVINGTON, Wash. - A 40-year-old co-owner of a Covington daycare is behind bars, accused of molesting two young children in his care. The daycare, licensed for more than a decade as a bilingual learning center, has been shut down by the state.
According to court documents, Jose Luis Pena-Maldenado molested two girls--ages seven and four, in the daycare’s van, and in the daycare during their “naptime.” The girls even described how Maldenado showed them pornography. Pena-Maldenado told the girls he touched them “because he loved them,” according to detectives.
Detectives say Pena-Maldenado admitted touching the girls, and wanted to ask the victims for forgiveness.
But the suspect’s own family, who live in the home where the daycare was run, are stunned by the allegations. “He deceived all of us,” said Pena-Maldenado’s stepson, Victor Ramos. “We didn’t know anything about this. If we did, we would have dragged him to police! God, I hope those kids will be okay,” said Ramos.
Ramos said his mother and Pena-Maldenado ran the “El Carrusel” daycare together for years. Ramos told KIRO-7 Pena-Maldenado ought to stay in jail. “We always hear stuff on the news like this,” Ramos said. “You never think it's going to happen to you. But we are strong believers that pedophiles need to be in jail for life!"
According to DSHS investigators, this was not the first time Jose Luis Pena-Maldenado had been questioned for inappropriately touching children in the facility. Investigators with the Department of Early Learning opened a file on Pena-Maldenado in 2010, but closed it days later, when they could prove no criminal wrongdoing. The El Carrusel daycare kept its license.
DSHS opened their next investigation on August 12th. One week later, investigators pulled the daycare’s license. Pena-Maldenado was arrested September 9th by King County Detectves.
He faces four counts of child molestation in the first degree, and will be arraigned in King County court September 24th.