Christine Pelisek
March 05, 2018 03:59 PM


Three Illinois daycare teachers were arrested Friday for allegedly giving toddlers gummy bears laced with the over-the-counter sleep aid melatonin.

Kristen Lauletta, 32, Jessica Heyse, 19, and Ashley Helfenbein, 25, were each charged with two counts of endangering the life or health of a child and two counts of battery.

Des Plaines Police allege they were called to the Kiddie Junction Daycare Center in Des Plaines by daycare management after they discovered one of the teachers had been distributing gummy bears to the class of two-year-olds to “calm the kids down for nap time,” Commander Chris Mierzwa tells PEOPLE.

Mierzwa says during a police interview the teacher told them that two other co-workers were also allegedly giving out the gummy bears.

Mierzwa alleges the teachers had been giving the toddlers at the daycare the gummy bears since November 2016.

“Not every child was given it,” he says.

Des Plaines Police

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Mierzwa says the teachers admitted to giving the toddlers the gummy bears but said they didn’t think administering the sleep aid was inappropriate because it was an over-the-counter medication.

“The bottle specifically said it shouldn’t be given to children under 15,” he says. “The problem is you shouldn’t be giving anything to a child that hasn’t been authorized by the parents, even if it is an over the counter supplement. I talked to one mother personally and she said she was wondering why her son came home a little more groggy than usual from school.”

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Since Friday, Mierzwa says investigators have reached out to all the parents. “We didn’t want parents to not know what was going on.”

Additional charges may be pending, police say.

The three teachers are out on bail and have a court appearance on April 4. It was not immediately clear if any had retained attorneys, and PEOPLE’s efforts to reach the suspects were not immediately successful.

The Kiddie Junction Daycare Center did not return a call for comment.

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