Two former day care workers at the Robins Air Force Base Child Development Center allegedly coerced 14 children into fighting each other on multiple occasions, according to the Justice Department.
Zhanay Flynn, 27, and Antanesha Fritz, 29, have been charged in a 30-count indictment that includes accusations of first-degree child cruelty, second-degree child cruelty, simple battery, and failing to report suspected child abuse while at the Georgia facility.
The former director of the center, Latona Lambert, 51, is also being charged with one count of failing to report suspected child abuse, according to the DOJ release.
The indictment alleges a series of brutal fights forced upon the children in January and February 2021. Among other allegations, forms of abuse are believed to have included striking children, coercing them into hitting and fighting one another, kicking and striking the children, and spraying children in the face with cleaning solution.
“If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years of imprisonment and up to a maximum of 20 years of imprisonment for each count of cruelty to children in the first degree,” the release stated.
Additionally, the defendants face a minimum of one year in prison and a maximum of 10 years for each count of second-degree child cruelty, up to one year for each simple battery charge, and a max of one year for failure to report the suspected abuse.
The Air Force is cooperating with the Justice Department in the investigation.
“Properly caring for our Airmen and their families is of utmost importance,” Roland Leach, the head of media operations at Robins AFB, told Military Times. “Our Airmen should have confidence in the care provided at our Child Development Center. We are fully supporting the ongoing investigation and reviewing processes to ensure the appropriate measures are in place to safeguard our children.”
Citing the evolving nature of the case, the Justice Department declined to provide additional details.
“As this is an ongoing investigation, we will not be able to comment at this time,” Melissa Hodges, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said in an email to Military Times. Hodges did note, however, that “Arrest warrants have been issued in this case and Ms. Flynn was taken into custody the night of Oct. 11.”
Flynn’s hearing was held before U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Weigle the following day. Her bond was set at $15,000, with stipulations added that she not contact the victims and their families or engage in activities with any children except her own.
The Justice Department is encouraging any parents with children who attended daycare at the Robins Air Force Base Child Development Center during the time period in question to call the Family Advocacy line at 478-327-8398.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.