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Mesa preschool employee sentenced in child abuse case

Lauren Miller (Source: Mesa Police Department) Lauren Miller (Source: Mesa Police Department)
© CBS 5 News © CBS 5 News
© CBS 5 News © CBS 5 News

A Mesa preschool employee will spend the next eight months in county jail as part of a plea deal in a child abuse case.

Under the plea agreement, Judge Pamela Gates sentenced Lauren Miller to Lifetime Supervised Probation and eight months in jail starting Nov. 8.

Miller was arrested Oct. 17, 2013 on suspicion of two counts of child abuse and two counts of unlawful imprisonment and originally pleaded not guilty.

The Mesa Police Department received a call of suspected child abuse at the Cholla Montessori School located at 2243 E. University Dr. in Mesa and when detectives arrived they found evidence confirming child abuse, Mesa police spokesman Steve Berry said.

A 2-year-old girl was found lying down and restrained in a room by herself.

Miller is accused of wrapping the girl in a blanket and tying the ends of the cloth so tightly that the toddler couldn't move.

Police said the girl was OK and was reunited with her parents.

Police said 27 children were in the building at the time.

Parents were notified after detectives made the discovery and told to return to the school and retrieve their children.

"They have questions. They want answers. They want to know, 'did this happen to my child,'" said Berry.

"I think he wouldn't want to come back if something like that was happening," said Tommy Letog of his 3-year-old son.

Employees were interviewed, including Miller who was arrested later that evening.

Records list Victoria Best as the owner of the school. She declined to be interviewed by CBS 5 News.

CBS 5 News obtained information from the Arizona Department of Economic Security that showed the Cholla Montessori received 11 citations in 2011, including hygiene issues, paperwork discrepancies and staffing issues.

The center received 17 citations in 2012 including plumbing problems, paperwork discrepancies and staffing issues.

During a 2013 survey, they had one citation.

There are 15 children ages 3 to 4 in the preschool classroom and one staff member. The faculty director said they have been understaffed in the past and are hiring staff to ensure the appropriate staff-to-student ratio is met.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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