Child care operator takes plea deal

By Bob Fowler

LOUDON - Parents of a 4-year-old whose bowel was perforated when struck in the stomach by an unlicensed day care center operator displayed an "amazing show of grace" Tuesday, Loudon County District Attorney General Russell Johnson said.

After a last-minute, closed-door meeting with Misty Cosner before her plea hearing, Kelvin and Judy McCollum of Lenoir City decided they wouldn't press for a prison sentence.

Instead, the McCollums agreed to let Cosner plead to a reduced charge of aggravated assault in Loudon County Criminal Court and have her 3-year prison sentence be served on probation.

Cosner publicly apologized for the mishap and expressed regret for her action on the day the boy was hurt, according to a letter prepared on her behalf by her attorney. She also thanked the McCollums for their "understanding, forgiveness and compassion."

The incident should be a lesson that parents should be "ever vigilant" in choosing a day care, according to Kelvin McCollum. "No parent should have to experience the fright, tension and trauma we experienced," McCollum said in a written statement.

Cosner was charged with especially aggravated child abuse and neglect in connection with a Feb. 15, 2007, incident at the day care center she operated at her home.

Cosner was taking kids downstairs in her home when the McCollums' son fell down the stairs, according to court records. As she approached the youth, Cosner "struck the child in the abdominal area with her foot," records state. She then called the McCollums, told them their son was sick and said his color was not good.

Cosner misled the parents about the serious nature of the boy's injuries and how they occurred, according to court records.

The boy required immediate surgery and was hospitalized for several days. A doctor said the boy's injuries were similar to a velocity injury caused by a seat belt in a car crash.