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Children found in closet at crowded day-care center

September 4, 1997

BETHALTO, Ill. (AP) _ A woman cited twice in the past four years for having too many children at her in-home day-care operation was arrested after police found 16 youngsters there, including three in a closet and eight in the back yard.

``It was a warehouse for little children,″ prosecutor Bill Haine said.

Debora Rees, 33, was charged with endangering the lives or health of 14 of the children. She also was charged with two license violations, as was her husband, David Rees, 34, a car salesman. They were arrested on Tuesday.

Rees was charged because his name is on the license, which allowed only six children to be cared for at the home, Haine said. The charges are misdemeanors, punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and a year in jail.

Police went to the home responding to a complaint that a child had bitten an 8-month-old girl 20 times late last month. They found three children _ ages 8 months, 10 months and 18 months _ in a closet. Two were asleep and the third was crying.

At times, there were as many as 20 children present at the home, Haine said. Authorities said children would be hidden in the garage or rooms when other parents arrived.

Other than the bitten child, there was no evidence of any injuries, authorities said.

Debora Rees was cited twice, in 1993 and in June, for having more children than allowed under her day-care license, police said. The June violation involved 16 children.

Ronda Wiegand, 38, was sending her 22-month-old son to the center when state officials shut it down a week ago.

``Debbie’s just the sweetest person,″ she said. ``I put my full trust in her. I was so confident in her.″

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