Former Daycare Operator Sues DHS, Sheriff

Friday, July 13th 2007, 2:40 pm
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ A Fort Gibson couple is suing the Department of Human Services and the Muskogee County sheriff's office over what they claim was the improper handling of a sexual abuse allegation.

The two $1 million claims were filed by Kelly Pierce and his wife, Leigh Ann Pierce, who owned and operated the Little Tykes Day Care Center in Fort Gibson. Kelly Pierce, who also is a former part-time Fort Gibson police officer, claims his reputation was ruined when he was charged with child abuse because of baseless allegations from a 3-year-old girl.

A Muskogee County judge ultimately dismissed the charges, ruling there was insufficient evidence for the case to proceed and that the testimony was untrustworthy.

Kelly Pierce claims Tim Brown, chief investigator for the Muskogee County sheriff, recommended filing charges without visiting the location of the alleged abuse, without interviewing all potential witnesses and without contacting other identified suspects.

Robert J. Haupt, Pierce's attorney, said if Brown had conducted a proper investigation, he would have discovered numerous inconsistencies in the girl's story.

Brown failed to ``make any attempts to corroborate or otherwise investigate the sexual abuse allegations, yet, despite this, Brown contacted the parents of the children attending Little Tykes Day Care and told them that Mr. Pierce had been accused of sexual molestation,'' the claim alleges.

Brown declined comment, citing the pending legal claims.

Kelly Pierce also blamed DHS for the case being filed against him.

A DHS social worker, Melissa Hayward, investigated the sexual abuse allegations and issued a report saying the results were ``inconclusive,'' but her supervisor, Gerald Beachem, altered the report to say the allegations were ``confirmed'' without doing any independent investigation of his own, Pierce alleges.

Beachem's report said another child at the day care had corroborated the girl's statements, but the judge ruled there was ``no corroborative evidence.''

DHS spokesman George Johnson said the DHS officials knowledgeable about the Little Tykes situation were not immediately available for comment.