Babysitter accused of beating toddlers had previous abuse charge, open arrest warrant

(WBNS)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A trusted friend and babysitter is accused of violently beating three young children.

Destinie Preston, 22, is facing misdemeanor counts of assault and endangering children in several cases.

The photos are stomach-turning: babies, battered and bruised. The children in the photos are the grandchildren of Dawne Wright.

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"I literally just cried, cried, cried for three days," Wright said. "Every time I looked at them all I could do was cry."

Preston was a trusted family friend who had been around her grandchildren many times.

"At least twice a week, birthday parties, stuff like that. So one day, she was like, 'I'm gonna take the kids and give you a break.'"

Wright says when she picked the grandchildren up from their weekend with Preston, it quickly became clear something was wrong.

"The first thing we noticed was the bruising on the side of the face. And then we noticed the knot, and then we noticed the gash and the other knots. He had dark, dark belt marks all on his arm. His back was covered with them."

Thursday, Preston appeared in court on three counts of assault and three counts of child endangerment.

"The four-year-old had bruises and welts from being whipped with a belt on her chest, back, legs and arms," said Prosecutor Amy Meyers. "The two-year-old had bruises and welts on his arms, back, buttocks and face. The 13-month-old had three spinal fractures that were caused by compression."

"They said she was, like, slammed down on the car seat or the high chair," Wright said. "Awful scene — sight. Awful."

But this wasn't the first such accusation against Preston.

A search of public records at the Franklin County Courthouse turned up a disturbingly similar case from last year involving a different child.

In May 2018, police say a 2-year-old boy also sustained compression fractures while in her care — his back broken in four places.

In December, a warrant was issued for Preston's arrest, but she was never taken into custody.

"Disgusts me," said Wright. "I wish I would have known about it before. Because there is no way on the face of this earth my kids would have... she wouldn't have been in no type of vicinity."

Wright says her grandchildren are still recovering and she's taking away a hard lesson.

"Screen, screen, screen, screen, screen. Don't trust nobody. I don't care how long you've known them."

For anyone trying to screen their sitter — a simple search of your county clerk's website will turn up any charges or convictions in that county.

You can also call or email the records department of your local police department and sheriff's office and ask for any incident reports involving the person you're screening.

Spelling matters — Columbus Police had three different spellings of Destinie in their system.

And you should check the municipal court for misdemeanors and the common pleas court for felonies.

Columbus Police say they made an unsuccessful attempt to arrest Preston last year. it's not clear what kind of follow-up there was on that case.

They say there are literally thousands of warrants to be served and not enough resources to chase down all of those suspects.

With that in mind, they say they have to prioritize the most violent felony offenses.

Nationwide Children's Hospital provided the following resources for safe and affordable childcare:

  • Cap4Kids
  • Safe Sitter - A nationally-recognized program developed by pediatricians that provides quality babysitting training programs for youth at many locations throughout Columbus and Ohio.
  • Child Care Aware and Hotline: (800) 424-2246. Provides information on how to find high-quality child care in the community, including steps toward choosing quality child care, ways to help pay and budget for child care, state-by-state resources and more.
  • Franklin County Children Services also has a resource book