Complaints, arrest shut day care doors
News Sentinel staff

Merridith Preston

Decker Hicks

A Loudon County day care center has shut down and agreed to a suspension of its license following complaints of inadequate supervision and possible illegal activity, a state official said.

Meredith Preston, the licensed operator of Discovery Depot Learning Center on U.S. Highway 321 agreed to temporarily close the child care agency, according to Michelle Mowery Johnson of the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

The action stemmed from complaints of inadequate supervision made Friday that lead to the arrest of Preston and her companion Decker Hicks on drug charges.

Preston was charged with possession of a legend drug without a prescription, while Hicks was charged with simple possession of marijuana, according to the Loudon County Sheriff's Department.

Further information about the complaints or the arrests was not available.

The day care center was placed on probation by DHS in March after repeatedly being cited for failure to adequately supervise the children in its charge, according to an agency report.

The report by a DHS child care program evaluator repeatedly observed Preston outside the building, at times smoking, leaving infants and toddlers alone or with inadequate supervision, according to the DHS report.

The center was also cited for hazards to children, including dangling electrical cords, no staff members certified in first aid, no fire alarm or land line telephone and improper supervision of children while eating.


Loudon County daycare suspended on accusation of marijuana use on-site

A daycare in Loudon County has been suspended on a parent's accusation of finding children unsupervised, as the daycare director was on the porch with a man who was smoking marijuana. Discovery Depot Learning Center between Lenoir City and Greenback has been temporarily shut down. A father said Thursday he went to the daycare's newer building to pick up his child and found no adults in the building. When he asked the children where the adults were, he said they told him they were around back, smoking. He reported a 7-year-old child was left in charge of 3- and 4-year-old children. The father reported finding the owner of the daycare and other daycare workers on the back porch with a man who was smoking marijuana. The father said he did not say anything to the people out back, instead getting his own child, heading home, and calling authorities.

The next day, sheriff's deputies went to the daycare's older facility, which was still in operation, to talk to the owner about the reported incident. There, they found 41-year-old Merridith Preston and a man they identified as her boyfriend, 28-year-old Decker Hicks. Deputies said they asked Hicks if he had any drugs on his person and he produced a small amount of marijuana. Deputies said they asked Preston if she had any drugs in her possession and she produced percocet, for which she had a prescription, and Xanax, for which she did not. Preston was booked on possession of Xanax without a prescription. Hicks was booked on simple marijuana possession, but authorities are looking to file enhanced charges because it was on the grounds of a daycare.

 The Tennessee Department of Human Services reports the daycare was a 1-star rated center that opened in March, 2004.The daycare has been voluntarily suspended pending the outcome of the accusation. Licensee Merridith Preston signed to voluntarily suspend the license.