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PREVIOUS COVERAGE | 13-year-old charged in assault on toddler at day care

BRADENTON — A 13-year-old boy has been arrested in the beating and possible rape of a 22-month-old girl at a Bradenton home day care, police officials said Monday.

Detectives arrested the boy on an aggravated child abuse charge; the owner of Our Kids Daycare, 21-year-old Heather Elizabeth Lovett, has been arrested on a charge of child neglect. Lovett declined comment Monday evening.

Police say Lovett cared for five children, ranging in age from 10 months to 4 years old, in the home day care at 1420 16th St. W.

Last Wednesday, she left the house and left the children in the care of the 13-year-old, who is the son of her boyfriend. Later, at around 5:30 p.m., police were called to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where a father had taken his 22-month-old daughter after picking her up from the day care.

When police arrived at the hospital, the child had multiple bruises and dried blood on her ears.

An emergency room doctor determined that the child had been punched, choked and sexually assaulted, according to Bradenton police reports. The parents of the child said they had been taking their child to Lovett’s day care for a few months and their daughter had no injuries when they dropped her off that morning.

Police began questioning Lovett, who said she had left the day care for “five minutes” to take something to her boyfriend, leaving the teenage boy with the children. Lovett came home to find the boy sitting in a chair and the children in a “play area.”

Lovett looked at the 22-month-old girl and “noticed swelling around her eyes,” causing her to call the infant’s father, police reports state. Police then began investigating the boy, who admitted to becoming “enraged” when the infant threw a golf ball at him.

The boy told detectives he punched the infant “at least 20 times” in the face and body, the police report states. Doctors found injuries consistent with sexual assault, which the boy denied, but police are still investigating the possibility of additional charges based on those injuries, according to Bradenton Police Deputy Chief William Tokajer.

“Just the fact that the 13-year-old admitted to striking this child 20 times shows there are serious issues here that need to be corrected in the justice system,” Tokajer said.

Bradenton detectives say the boy is being held in a juvenile detention center, while Lovett has been released on $1,000 bail from the Manatee County jail. The Florida Department of Children & Families has shut down Lovett’s day care, which was licensed with the state, according to Tokajer.

The arrests of Lovett and the boy come on the heels of a prior visit by police on June 21 to Lovett’s day care, at that time located at 917 17th St. W., where detectives opened a molestation investigation, according to reports.

A parent of a boy at the day care told police her son reported that an eighth-grade boy who “helps out” at the day care molested him, according to police reports. The boy is the older brother of the 13-year-old arrested on charges of beating of the infant girl, Tokajer said.

The boy denied molesting the child so police submitted the investigation into the complaint to the Manatee State Attorney’s Office for review, Tokajer said.