Day care abuse case settled for $1.4M

SEATTLE — Claims of child abuse at a local day care led to a $1.4 million settlement. And some of the money is coming from the state.

The state shut down Growing Smart Kid'z day care in West Seattle three years ago based on the allegations. But the lawsuit was just settled.

The families' lawyer says some of the day care worker themselves ultimately turned on Catherine and Marshall Jones, corroborating the children's account, some of whom were as young as 6 months old.

They also took pictures of the abuse they say the children experienced.

"Pictures show children being left unattended and toddlers being left unattended in swings for hours on end," said attorney Sumeer Singla, "in the rain, in the sunshine."

These are the pictures Singla shared with us. They are black and white and difficult to see in some cases, but he says they show children being mistreated at the day care here in West Seattle.

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​"They show children being separated from the rest of the group," Singla said. "And being forced to sleep alone, away from everybody else."

He says it was "as punishment."

But he says they experienced even worse.

"We believe that the day care owners in this case Catherine and Marshall Jones not only physically and emotionally abused the children," said Singla. "But we have also reason to believe that there were some sexual abuse there as well."

KIRO 7 spoke to Marshall Jones outside the daycare center and his wife owned more than three years ago. He denied they were being investigated.

"Oh, no," Jones said in 2015. "No. I've had kids for years and years."

But even then, the state had shut down the daycare because of the disturbing allegations that led to the lawsuit. That the Jones and others were seen "slapping, pinching the children." That they had "inappropriate contact while bathing (the children) in a laundry sink without supervision." That the children were "intentionally isolated." And that for eight long years, they "failed to report injuries suffered at the facility."

Moreover, day care employees said a Department of Early Learning worker tipped off the couple about the details of the investigation. So the families sued the state, too.

"I was very sick to my stomach," said Kayla Keating, a parent. She spoke when the state began its investigation in 2015. She was not a part of the settlement.

But she said then she had pulled her young children out of Growing Smart Kidz because her older daughter didn't want to go to the bathroom there and was afraid of nap time.

"Any parent, the last thing they want, is for something like for your child to go through," said Keating.

Late today, Ross Hunter, secretary of the Department of Children, Youth and Families, sent a statement that says, in part, "Our top priority is the safety and well-being of children and families. We will continue our efforts to ensure the highest quality child care possible and build strong safety nets to prevent the abuse of children ... (in) child care centers."

The families are to receive $130,000 from taxpayers. Catherine and Marshall Jones will pay them $1.3 million.

"We're hoping that the justice that we were able to achieve for these children," said Singla, "will give them an opportunity to take care of themselves as they move forward in their lives."

Singla says the King County prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against the couple because of the youth of the children.

But he hopes, based on their investigation, and the fact that the children are older, prosecutors will take a second look.