Parents of the children Kimberly Hignite, 52, used to watch were present in the Franklin County Common Pleas courtroom Monday morning for the sentencing hearing. In a plea deal, they heard her plead guilty to 14 counts of misdemeanor child endangerment.
Initially indicted in June of 2018, Hignite was charged with five counts of gross sexual imposition and 17 counts of child endangerment for allegedly engaging in sexual misconduct with children in her care between February 2011 and May 2018. The five gross sexual imposition charges each carry a maximum possible sentence of up to five years in prison. Each of the 17 gross sexual imposition charges carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
Police responded to her unregistered daycare in Grove City last year in response to two children reporting sexual abuse. When police arrived, Hignite was not at the residence and the only adult there was her 71 year old mother that used a walker. Police found 23 children in the home at that time, ranging in ages from 7 months to 5 years. When she turned herself in to police, she denied any sexual abuse to children in her care, but did admit that she had too many children in her home.
According to court documents, the parents relayed that their children were often confined to car seats for hours on end, denied food and water, and forced to take sleeping medications. During Monday's sentencing hearing, some parents evidently chose to make statements, but Hignite chose to remain silent. Metro reported some of those statements, but none of the local outlets included them, so they have not been repeated here.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Assistant prosecutor Amy Van Culin stated that the families that had cooperated were involved in the plea deal which involved dropping three gross sexual imposition charges and dismissing five of the child endangerment charges. The remaining two sexual imposition charges were lowered to child endangerment.
Evidently the grandfather of two of the children that had been in Hignite's care, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge William Woods said this case was especially difficult to handle. “I certainly understand the pain of the families in this case, the seriousness of the trust that is placed upon day cares, the impact day cares have on the children,” Woods said. “The court hopes again that the families are successful in overcoming the harm that has been done in this case.”
Hignite was sentenced to just 30 days in jail and a fine of $4,200.