Investigators say the employees inside the facility had a visual advantage because they could see parents as they approached the front doors. It was after a surprise inspection that investigators say they uncovered instances of abuse and neglect.
"I feel very fortunate that we're here talking about it now with all surviving children," said Officer Steve Goard with the Livermore Police Department. Wednesday morning, Livermore police arrested 35-year-old Nazila Sharaf and 33-year-old Lida Sharaf for what they said was abuse and neglect. "Three counts of felony child abuse and child neglect, and three counts of misdemeanor child abuse and child neglect," Goard explained.
The doors to Universal Preschool, formerly known as "Sunnyside Infant and Preschool," remain locked after state officials shut it down in March. A 19-year-old whistleblower reported what she believed to be the abuse of children being committed by the Sharaf sisters upon some of the children in their care.
"This young lady had a lot of courage to come forward knowing this was going to be a difficult thing," Goard told ABC7 News. After several unannounced visits, police say they uncovered evidence of dangerous and improper swaddling methods. "These kids were tied in knots. Their legs and arms were bound and they were restrained from even moving," Goard said.
Investigators even found children with blankets placed over their faces. They say the Sharafs would do this to force the children to sleep during nap time. And, it's almost like a boa constrictor on their chest. If they were to roll over on their face, they have no way of rescuing themselves and it could easily cause their death," Goard said.
The proper method of swaddling a child is not recommended for children older than 6 months, but police say the women tied and restrained children as old as 11 months. "They were doing it more, I guess, to keep the kids still and really endangered these child's lives," Goard said.
Nazila had a daycare license issued by the state of California that was revoked in March 2010. One year later, her sister Lida got a license under the name "Universal Preschool." Both women are being held in the Alameda County Jail in lieu of bail. Prosecutors are working to stop them from ever working in a daycare facility in the future.