Pair charged with complicity to child abuse by former employee

Two more indictments have been issued in connection to the First United Methodist Church day care child abuse case.

The Rev. Paige Williams, 61, senior pastor at the church, and former day care director Abby Leach, 32, were both indicted for complicity to first-degree child abuse.

According to court documents, the pair committed complicity to criminal abuse by “intentionally breaching their legal duty to protect (seven) minor children all less than 13 months old, by failing to prevent Allison Simpson from intentionally abusing these children.”

The incident allegedly occurred between Dec. 1, 2018 and Jan. 28, 2019, the documents added.

Leach was day care director at the time of the alleged abuse last year. The church hired a new day care director, Cynthia Dougherty, in February who has since resigned following a separate investigation.

The court documents for Williams and Leach state that their actions “placed (the seven children) in a situation that might cause serious physical injury, causes torture, cruel confinement or cruel punishment at the hands of Simpson.”

These indictments come months after 24-year-old Simpson was arrested Jan. 30 for the alleged abuse.

According to New Era archives, on Jan. 10, Simpson allegedly subjected two babies to cruel confinement and punishment while she was working at the day care. She is accused of putting a 10-month-old and an 8-month-old in "substantial danger of serious injury," the report states.

No other details about the incident have yet to be released.

Despite that, more charges will be brought against Simpson in the future, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Boling.

In Simpson’s original indictment, she was charged with the abuse of two children. However, in Williams' and Leach’s indictments, there are seven children listed. Boling explained that new charges will be brought against Simpson for the five remaining children.

Boling also shared that the investigation is still ongoing, and they are not ready to rule out other suspects at this time, but no other suspects are currently being indicted.

The day care at the local Methodist church has been in the process of rebuilding after investigations from Hopkinsville Police Department and the Division of Regulated Child Care.

These indictments come just after Dougherty, the most recent day care director, resigned Tuesday.

According to the Rev. Jeff Calhoun, director of modern worship and adult discipleship at the church, Doughtery accepted a position elsewhere.

In June, the Methodist Church received a scathing inspection from the DRCC with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, leading to the day care being closed for roughly a week last month.

According to that investigation, 37 children were present June 24 and surveillance video footage between June 20 and 24 was reviewed.

Based on the video, the licensee — the church day care — was not in compliance with the director requirements for health, safety and comfort, as listed in Kentucky Administrative Regulation 922.

In the video, Dougherty, "firmly grabbed two 4-year-old boys by one arm and pulled them toward (herself) to talk with each child," the report stated. " ... In addition, the director used a white envelope to tap one of the two 4-year-old children's mouths because the child continued to talk."

Dougherty was also required to report to the Division of Regulated Child Care her exact interaction with both children.

In the report, Dougherty said she used her hand to "flick" the left ear of the same 4-year-old child when the child continued to talk and make mouth noises in the Little Chapel area.

"The director also placed her left foot/shoe on the back of both calves of the same 4-year-old child's legs because the child continued to move while kneeling in front of an adult-size chair during 'thinking time' in the Little Chapel," the report continued.

A review of the center's discipline policy of the employee handbook states, "Under no circumstances are children at First United Methodist Church Daycare disciplined with corporal punishment (physical), verbal abuse, humiliation or withholding of food or toys."

No specific details have been released regarding the indictments of Williams and Leach.

Leach was arrested and lodged in the Christian County Jail at around 1:45 p.m. Friday. However, Leach has been released on a $10,000 bond.

Williams has not been arrested at the time of this publication.

Simpson was released Jan. 31 on bond, according to jail records.

Reach Avery Seeger at 270-887-3236 or aseeger@kentuckynewera.com. Follow him on Twitter @AveryNewEra

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