Former workers and owner of daycare that served Mississippi River communities plead guilty to child cruelty charges

Published 8:37 am Friday, June 24, 2022

Former workers of a daycare that served families in Louisiana and Mississippi pleaded guilty to child cruelty charges during a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday in Seventh Judicial District Circuit Court.

In October 2021, an investigation of child cruelty allegations involving Noah’s Ark Christian Childcare in Vidalia, Louisiana, ended in the arrest of three of the daycare employees and the owner. The daycare served families on both sides of the Mississippi River.

Lysa C. Richardson, 36, the owner, had been charged with three counts of cruelty to a juvenile.

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She pleaded guilty to all three counts on Wednesday.

Two of the daycare employees charged in the case also pled guilty to some of their charges on Wednesday. Bridget K. Delaughter, 33, had been charged with four counts of cruelty to a juvenile and pleaded guilty to three of the four counts. Julianne Perales, 26, had been charged with 11 counts of cruelty to a juvenile and pleaded guilty to six of the 11 counts.

“Once they enter a plea deal, that is the finalization of it,” added Assistant District Attorney Austin Lipsy, who prosecuted the case.

Judge Kathy Johnson ordered a pre-sentencing investigation for each and sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 7 at 1:30 p.m. for all four women, Lipsy said.

Taylor Ragonesi, 19, another former worker at the daycare, pleaded guilty to one count on June 1. She was originally charged with three counts.

She will be sentenced on the same date, he said.

“Dealing with young children especially is more difficult than normal cases because the children can’t speak for themselves. The only voice they have is through the judicial system,” he said. “I was happy to see that this case was quickly resolved and that these families can get closure. Given the nature of the case, I know it must be upsetting to them each time it’s brought up.”

Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office responded to a complaint about a 14-month-old child being struck at the daycare in October and reviewed security camera footage.

Authorities said the video showed an employee “excessively strike the child numerous times,” as well as employees striking two other 1-year-old children. Investigators later seized a DVR hard drive with more surveillance footage which recorded numerous instances of children being struck excessively on different parts of the body including the face, mouth and head. Employees were also seen striking the children with wooden paint sticks, authorities said.

According to Louisiana law, a person convicted of cruelty to juveniles, “shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned with or without hard labor for not more than ten years, or both.”