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Sheriff Grady Judd asks any 'Kat Gardner's 24/7 Daycare' victims to come forward

5:47 PM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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Winter Haven, FL -- A Polk County man is behind bars charged with sexually assaulting a three-year-old boy.

The child, say investigators, was left at a day care center operated by the man's wife out of their shared home in Winter Haven. 

Aside from the accusations that the woman's husband, 50-year-old Carroll Gardner, sexually assaulted a child, officials are also looking into why the center closed abruptly.

"Is that about the most disgusting thing you've ever heard?" asked Sheriff Grady Judd.

The Polk County sheriff says he is repulsed by details emerging in the case against Gardner.

The case started in August of last year, when a mother driving her three-year-old son home from the Kat Gardner's 24/7 Daycare, innocently asked the little boy how his day had gone.

According to Sheriff Judd, the toddler responded: "Mr. Gardner licked my pee pee."

At that point, detectives say the boy's mother didn't ask anymore questions about it until she took the child home and asked him to use a teddy bear to demonstrate what he meant.

Then, based on what he showed her, she took him to a local hospital where they collected DNA evidence.

It took several months of legal wrangling, but investigators say they eventually got a warrant forcing Carroll to submit a DNA sample, and it that it matched the one taken from the boy.

Teresa Durdaller, a spokesperson for the Dept. of Children and Families, says the mother deserves praise for her actions.

"Kudos to this parent who stepped up and made that call to ensure that this doesn't happen to another family," she said.

DCF says there are resources on the agency's website to check out licensed daycare centers.

But they also recommend asking other clients, even neighbors.

"I thought it was kind of weird that just one day, out of the blue, she opened up a daycare that was open 24 hours," neighbor Megan Butz told 10 News. "And I told my husband, I said 'there's something about this man - I don't know. I said I just don't trust it.'"

See also: Husband of day care owner accused of sex abuse

Just four days after the alleged incident, Mrs. Gardner, says DCF, surrendered her daycare license, and closed the business.

She told them she was planning to anyway, but Sheriff Judd considers the move suspicious.

Mrs. Gardner had no comment for us when we asked her about the allegations.

But officials still have questions.

Mr. Gardner, they say, was also active with the couple's sons in Boy Scouts. Although they have no evidence to suggest any wrongdoing there, Sheriff Judd says what may have happened in the couple's home day care is still a concern.

"The word's out that we want to know if there's any other victims of this day care center," said the Polk County Sheriff.

The family declined to go on camera. A woman who lives at the Carroll residence told 10 News they've been advised not to speak.

But off camera, she said this was all a "set-up", and that the child's mother was angry because they were closing the daycare- leaving the woman in a bind with nowhere to take her child.

The woman who spoke off camera offered no explanation for the DNA match that led to Mr. Gardner's arrest.

Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv

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