Join Riverfront Times Press Club. Because No News is Bad News.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Head Start Teachers Charged with Felonies After Forcing Kids to Strip, Stand in Closet

Posted By on Thu, May 2, 2019 at 9:38 AM

click to enlarge Shavonda Willis and Mary Agbehia forced kids to stand naked in a closet, police say. - COURTESY ST. CLAIR COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY
  • COURTESY ST. CLAIR COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY
  • Shavonda Willis and Mary Agbehia forced kids to stand naked in a closet, police say.

Two pre-school instructors in East St. Louis are facing criminal charges over allegations they forced little kids to stand naked in a closet as punishment.

Teacher Mary Agbehia, 27, of Edwardsville and teachers' aide Shavonda Willis, 41, of Fairview Heights were charged with aggravated battery and unlawful restraint. They both worked for the Head Start program funded by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center.



During a news conference Wednesday, the college's police chief, Kevin Schmoll, said the kids allegedly abused by the two were four or five years old.

"They were having these children remove their clothes and stand in the closet for like five or ten minutes as a form of discipline," Schmoll said. "Where they got that from, we don't know."

One of the kids told his mother what was happening. She then contacted Head Start's administration, leading to the police investigation.

In addition to putting the kids in a closet, Willis is accused of making "physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature" with a little girl — specifically, pressing an object against a girl's skin and pretending to give her an injection.

Both women surrendered this morning and have been released on bond, according to St. Clair County court records. Bond was set for $5,000 each.

Willis was previously highlighted in a St. Louis Public Radio feature about a summer program at the center.

Editor's note: This story was updated with information about surrender and release of both defendants.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.


  • Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.
  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Riverfront Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of St. Louis and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep St. Louis' true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 14, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2020 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation