TARGET 8: Day care closes amid lawsuits

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COLUMBIA - A day care with a history of violating state regulations has closed its doors. 

The facility, Lots of Love Preschool and Childcare Center, first opened its doors in 2015.

KOMU 8 News reported on the center in July after former employee Shauna Kunzee said her boss had not paid her and other employees in months.

Kunzee, as well as several other former employees, said children were not getting fed properly.

In July, the Department of Health and Senior Services placed the center on probation after two babies escaped the facility's fenced playground. 

Despite its history of offenses, Kunzee said she doesn't think the state had anything to do with the center's closure. 

"She probably ran out of money," Kunzee said. "The word got around about Lots of Love."

According to court documents, several of the former employees filed in small claims court to receive payment from the owner, Kimberly Jones.

One employee filed for $752, another for $1,385, and another for $1,430. Since the owner did not appear in court after being summoned, the three employees won their cases in a default judgement. 

At least one of the former employees has received payment. 

Kunzee said her boss still owes her $1,200 for her work at the center. She said she plans to take Jones to small claims court soon. 

"I haven't been able to come up with the money to take her to court," Kunzee said.

Kunzee said though the center is closed, she is still recovering from its effects. 

"I'm just trying to get caught up on all my bills," Kunzee said. "My family is getting back in our routine."

KOMU 8 News found another lawsuit that involved the child care center. 

In August, a parent said a minor at the center sexually abused her 6-year-old daughter who has a mental disability. The mother sued the center and Jones for negligent supervision and negligent hiring.

According to case documents, the minor "forcefully used his finger to penetrate plaintiff's vagina and rectum."

On October 10, the family won the case in a default judgement after Jones "failed to file a timely answer or defend the lawsuit." The document stated damages would be accounted for later.

After the issues brought up in the last year at the center, KOMU 8 News spoke to a parent who said she is thankful she removed her daughter from Lots of Love. 

“It’s very sad to hear this happened at a day care here in town where you think these kids were safe," Samantha Cole said.

However, Kunzee said she wishes the state would have done more sooner. 

"It shouldn't have taken that long. There are children's lives at stake," Kunzee said.

Now, many are dealing with the aftermath of the day care's closing.

"I can say, 'Oh I’m happy that they’re closed,' but now several people are without income. Several children are displaced," Cole said.

KOMU 8 News tried to reach out to the owner of the day preschool, but she refused to cooperate. Target 8 will follow up with the state for the latest on the complaints against the center.