CUMBERLAND, Ind. (WXIN) — Paul Caudill started noticing behavioral changes in his 3-year-old daughter around Christmas time.
“She would have random outbursts of emotion and it would always be toward bedtime,” Caudill said. “She wouldn’t eat. She would complain about headaches.”
Caudill said his wife was ready to take the toddler in for medical testing when Pastor David Faulk at New Life Church in Cumberland, Indiana, pulled him aside on Feb. 1st as he dropped his daughter off at daycare on her birthday.
”He pulled me into his office and he explained to me that one of the employees had been giving my daughter melatonin,” said Caudill. ”I was like, ‘So, you mean that somebody had been drugging my daughter?’ He said, ‘Yeah, well, it’s been brought to our attention that one of our associates has been administering melatonin to a number of children for sixty days.’
”There was a lot of anger that came in towards the end of it, but I was in a church with a pastor.”
Tonya Rachelle Voris, 52, was fired in late January as the executive director of Kidz Life Childcare Ministry and now faces a felony charge of neglect of a dependent and a misdemeanor charge of reckless supervision.
In a probable cause affidavit, Cumberland police indicated they had interviewed most of the parents of the 17 children identified by the pastor as having likely been dosed with the over-the-counter sleep medication.
Many of those parents told detectives their children had also suffered side effects from the unauthorized doses.
According to the affidavit, police determined that “Voris dispensed the Melatonin gummies to forcefully induce sleep in several children for her personal gain in not having to deal with fussy or problematic children who would not sleep during naptime which was characterized by several staff members as their break-time.”
Faulk said Voris admitted dispensing the medication to the children, one of whom was only 1 year old, but she refused to talk to investigators.
”That parental instinct kicked in and, like, ‘Man, this is where I drop my daughter off. This is where we expect her to be safe,’” said Caudill. ”With it being a church organization, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether my daughter is safe at that facility.”
Caudill said after detoxing his daughter, ”That spunky, sassy little toddler is back, not the little zombie that I used to pick up.”
Caudill said he is looking for a new childcare center for his daughter.
As of late Sunday afternoon, Voris was still not in the custody of the Hancock County Sheriff.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain that helps control the body’s sleep cycle.
Melatonin dietary supplements, which are most often made synthetically, have been administered to children to treat some sleep problems. However, the center said, “because there aren’t many studies on children and melatonin supplements, there is a lot we don’t know about the use of melatonin in children.”
The center added, “For melatonin supplements, particularly at doses higher than what the body normally produces, there’s not enough information yet about possible side effects to have a clear picture of overall safety.”