3 day care workers accused of giving toddlers melatonin-laced gummies

DES PLAINES, Illinois (WGN) -- Three teachers at the Kiddie Junction Daycare Center in Des Plaines are accused of distributing gummy bears containing melatonin to a class of 2-year-olds without authorization from their parents.

Ashley Helfenbein of Chicago, 25, Jessica Heyse, 19, of Des Plaines and Kristen Lauletta, 32, of Niles were charged with battery and child endangerment Monday.

Police say the caretakers admitted handing out the Melatonin-laced gummies to at least 12 children to calm them down before nap time. They said they did not think it was inappropriate because it was an over-the-counter sleep aid.

The daycare center is still open and parents have been bringing their children. There have been no reports yet of any children getting sick from taking the sleep aide that carries a warning that it's not for use by small children. The gummies contained about five milligrams of the sleep aide.

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"It was supposed to be a 120-count bottle and I believe there were 4 or 5 left in the bottle, so this had been ongoing for some time," Des Plaines Chief of Police Bill Kushner sand Monday.

Investigators were alerted to the situation last Friday, after the daycare center’s executive director called police. Detectives questioned the three teachers who had direct contact with 2- and 3- year olds.

"I’m upset and I will be at the court date cause my son was one of the ones that was in the room," one mother said anonymously.

The mother of two did not want to be on camera, but says her son was given the supplement, and his doctor says he’s going to be ok. But even though she’s upset, she’s still bringing her son to the daycare center because she still believes in the daycare center’s owner.

"Kiddie Junction is an awesome place, my son has been here for awhile now and the teachers have been awesome for the most part, other than these three bad apples," she said.

Chief Kushner says the owner has been very cooperative with the investigation, but when WGN contacted her, she did not want to comment. Meanwhile, DCFS has opened an investigation into the daycare center and the three daycare workers. They are due in court on April 4, where Chief Kushner says more charges could be filed.

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