SOUTH ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) - A daycare worker is accused of sexually assaulting little girls he was supposed to care for.
Tony Brown is charged with multiple counts of child molestation. The wrongdoing allegedly took place during his time at a daycare in south St. Louis. He's set to go to trial in November.
But in a News 4 exclusive, investigative Reporter Lauren Trager reveals a long history of complaints at the daycare and talks with parents who say if the state had stepped in sooner, the sexual assaults never would have happened.
“All of this could have been prevented it could, a year ago, it could have been prevented,” said a local mother, who asked to be anonymous to protect her child's identity.
She contacted News 4 after seeing our initial report on Tony Brown in June.
“Oh my god, my heart dropped, I began to cry,” she said.
In January 2019, her then 3-year-old daughter attended the House of Montessori Education daycare on S. Broadway. Being a healthcare worker, she says she had to pick up her daughter at 11:00 p.m.
"It was the same woman with her every day,” the mom said.
But one particular night, she was shocked to find it was Brown who answered the door.
“The moment we got in the car, she said, ‘Tony kissed me on my belly,’ I said, ‘what?’” said the mom.
She recorded a video of her daughter, which News 4 has blurred. She took pictures, too.
“There were passion marks on her stomach,” said the mom.
Her daughter was convinced.
“When she told me, I knew it was the truth, she kept saying ‘Tony did it, Tony did it," said the mother.
She says she took her daughter to the hospital, filed a report with the state and the very next day, confronted the daycare's owner, Janet Scarim.
Cameras at the facility, Scarim reportedly said, were just for show and did not actually record any video. Scarim made excuses, according to the mom. Brown is Scarim's brother.
“I was furious at that point,” the anonymous mother said.
Her daughter never went back. But in the days, weeks and months that followed, the mom says she could get few answers from state investigators. Emails and calls requesting updates on the case, she says, went unreturned.
In the meantime, Brown continued working at the daycare, only to be accused of molesting children more than a year later.
”The authorities failed to protect all of them, all of them. I pretty sure there are more,” said the mother.
She says she wishes state investigators had taken her daughter's claims more seriously.
“Now he has gone farther with more little girls and it could have been prevented,” she said.
Through a series of public information requests, News 4 Investigates obtained hundreds of pages of inspection reports and substantiated complaints against House of Montessori Education. They included allegations of dirty conditions, unsafe sleeping and disciplinary practices, having too many children with too few staff members and the reports of child molestation that resulted in the charges against Brown.
But this mom's complaint was in a separate pile labeled “unsubstantiated.”
The report saying that the child was mumbling incoherently in video provided to them and that Brown denied kissing the child anywhere on her body.
In a response to News 4's inquiries for comment, a state spokesperson said, "We were unable to find any evidence to substantiate the claim."
“How many other children are out there are they failing at this point? How many cases are on their desk and they are ignoring them?” said the mom.
News 4 tried questioning the owner of the daycare, but she never responded to multiple requests for comment.
News 4 tracked down Brown, who refused to open the door.
“Only thing I can say is that I didn't do it and that's it,” Brown said.
He claims the three children who have come forward with allegations are making it up.
“Of course they are lying,” Brown said.
“A child isn't going to lie, if a child says someone touched them, they are telling the truth,” said the mother.
The mom says she wants Brown brought to justice. She is in contact with the police.
“He should have been locked up then. He should have been thrown in prison when my daughter said it the first time,” she said.
But not sure if she wants her daughter to have to testify, she says she is left wishing it never happened at all.
“No child should relive those memories, no child,” she said.
The state says the owner of House of Montessori Education voluntarily closed their doors for good, after the state informed her they would be seeking to revoke her license for some of the other substantiated complaints.
But the mom News 4 spoke to says the owner bears responsibility too, and shouldn't be allowed to open any other daycare centers in the future.
News 4 contacted Brown's attorney, Greg Smith, He said, "My understanding is that the allegation of abuse was not substantiated by the Children’s Division, meaning they could not find, even by a preponderance of the evidence, that abuse or neglect occurred. As for the allegations in the pending criminal case, Mr. Brown looks forward to his opportunity to clear his name and put to rest these accusations which are now running on your station."