WALLINGFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A couple is accused of abusing nine children at a home daycare in Wallingford.
Brenda L. Fornal, 61, and her boyfriend, 66-year-old Grant Freer, were arrested Tuesday after police received a report in August about the alleged abuse, according to authorities. Wallingford police said the two turned themselves in after warrants were issued.
The daycare is located at Fornal’s home on Ridgetop Road. Freer lives in Hamden.
News 8 obtained the arrest warrants for both Fornal and Freer that detail the allegations of the abuse.
According to the arrest warrant, one of the children that were in the care of Fornal told their parent that they saw another child become upset “about something having to do with the pool and that [the victim] ‘puked.'” The child then told their parent that “Brenda responded by putting the ‘puke’ in [the victim’s] hair.”
The arrest warrant states that one of the victims took it upon themselves to bring a cell phone to the daycare to record Fornal. In one of the recordings, the arrest warrant states that in one of the recordings, Fornal asked one of the children a question and when they didn’t respond, Fornal could be heard saying, “If you don’t answer me, I’m going to cut your [expletive] tongue off.”
The cell phone recordings were turned over to DCF, and the DCF worker indicated that what she heard was consistent with the verbal physical abuse of a child. The DCF worker also recognized the voice on the recording as Fornal’s following an in-home visit where Fornal denied the accusations.
During interviews, victims told police that they were hit and kicked by Fornal. One of the children told police that Fornal forces another child to drink water, which causes the child to pee their pants, and “when [the victim] pees her pants Brenda will then abuse her.”
The arrest warrant states one of the victims told police, “Brenda has also pulled out a blue knife on Victim #3 and will sometimes threaten [the victim] by saying ‘do you want me to get the knife.'”
When officers visited the home in Wallingford, they observed a video camera mounted outside the home. Officers also noticed brackets for cameras inside the home but did not see any visible cameras. When asked about cameras inside the house, Fornal told police she took it down weeks ago. When asked about an application on her phone regarding the cameras, Fornal told police she deleted it.
In the arrest warrant, it states that police told Fornal they would be searching for the cameras, which is when she brought them to her car, which is where the cameras were being stored. Police seized eight cameras and a phone from the house, but did not find anything of evidentiary value after being analyzed.
Fornal is facing charges of nine counts of risk of injury to a child, one count of voyeurism with malice, seven counts of third-degree assault, two counts of second-degree threatening, and fourth-degree assault, according to police.
Freer is facing a charge of conspiracy to commit risk of injury to a child.
Fornal has been assigned a $125,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 23. Freer has been given a $1,000 bond and will appear on the same day.
Fornal’s license to run a family child care out of her home was suspended by the Connecticut Department of Early Childhood, the organization confirmed Wednesday. In a statement, a spokesperson told News 8:
“When the CT Office of Early Childhood was informed of the serious allegations, the agency took immediate action to summarily (i.e., immediately) suspend her [Fornal’s] license. In lieu of participating in the adjudicatory suspension proceeding, the family childcare provider surrendered her license.”
Neighbors were shocked and upset to hear what happened.
“As a parent, you never want to put your kid in harm’s way and want to do everything you can do to protect them, this is just terrifying,” said Courtney Willard. “My heart was in my throat because just a few months ago I was inquiring about her daycare and I wanted to send my kids there.”
One neighbor says Fornal has been taking care of children for years.
“My girlfriend’s younger sisters actually went through her program probably 10 or 12 years ago. People I know personally had to pull their kids out two months ago just because of the ongoing investigation. It’s disgusting if you ask me,” shared the neighbor.
The Commissioner for the Department of Children and Families in Connecticut Vanessa Dorantes shared the following statement with News 8:
“The arrests announced today by the Wallingford Police Department reinforce that protecting children in all settings – family, childcare, schools, facilities, and other locations takes diligent and persistent efforts.”
The statement goes on to say that DCF is conducting an investigation alongside the Wallingford Police Department and Office of Early Childhood in response to the allegations of abuse. Still, it is unable to comment any further on the case.
“What we can share is that our agency conducted an investigation with the Wallingford Police Department and the Office of Early Childhood in response to allegations of child maltreatment. We are unable to comment any further on this matter.”
Community-based supports are available to residents across the state of Connecticut and can be contacted by calling 211. Information for families in need of behavioral health services can visit www.connectingtocarect.org.
Reasonable suspicions of child maltreatment can be made to the Child Abuse and Neglect Care line at 1-800-842-2288. The care line is open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Callers can choose to remain anonymous.