A former College Park day-care provider accused of molesting five children went on trial in Prince George's County yesterday and faced two of her accusers, girls ages 5 and 11 who testified in small voices that she touched them indecently.
The defendant, Gloria Tippett, 46, whose day-care center was shut by Maryland officials in March, also watched a third alleged victim, age 4, testify via closed-circuit television.
"Did Gloria ever do anything to you that you didn't like?" prosecutor Beverly Woodard asked the 5-year-old.
"Yes," the child answered. She sat in a chair at the prosecutor's table, a white ribbon in her blonde hair and her feet not touching the floor.
"What did she do?" Woodard asked.
"And what did she touch you with?"
"A butcher knife."
Tippett, free on $50,000 bond, is accused of molesting four girls and a boy at the day-care center she operated in her home in the 5100 block of Mineola Road. She's charged with five counts of child abuse, each punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and several counts of third-degree sex offense and assault.
She went on trial in Upper Marlboro yesterday on charges relating to three of the alleged victims. Rather than face a jury, she has opted to have Circuit Court Judge Joseph Casula render a verdict.
Before it was shut in March, Tippett had run a day-care center in her home for about a year, and another day-care facility at a different location for seven years before that.
Authorities began investigating her in January after a doctor reported that a child he examined who was in Tippett's care showed symptoms of sexual abuse.
The first child to testify, the 4-year-old girl, did so via closed-circuit television after Casula ruled that facing Tippett in the courtroom could traumatize the child.
"Did Gloria ever do anything to you you didn't like?" Woodard asked the girl in the office.
"Yes," the child said.
"And what was that?"
"Stick her finger in my crotch."
All the girls seemed to grow confused when questioned by Tippett's attorney, Sean Cleary, about how many times they allegedly were abused and about whether their parents had influenced their testimony.
The 11-year-old girl broke down crying moments after Cleary began cross-examining her, prompting Casula to call a recess.
The 5-year-old girl seemed certain about the frequency of the alleged abuse. But Cleary seemed doubtful.
"How often did this happen?" he asked the girl.
"Lots," she replied.
"How high can you count?" he asked.
"Did it happen 31 times?"
Later, Cleary asked her, "Do you know what comes after 31?" She answered, "32."
"You've talked about this with your mommy a lot, haven't you?" Cleary asked.
"Yes," the girl said.
"Did you talk with her 31 times?"
The trial resumes today with the defense presenting its case.