WA daycare worker charged with child rape

A King County daycare worker has been charged with rape and molestation of the children he was looking after.

Prosecutors charged 25-year-old Joseph Jones, also known as Joseph Hefner, with first-degree child rape, first-degree child molestation and communication with a minor for immoral purposes.

According to charging documents, Jones worked at Discovery Playtown in Maple Valley, where he befriended the family of a child who went there. He would drop her off after daycare, and in 2022, he met the girl's older sister, who was only around 11 years old at the time.

Court docs say Jones groomed the 11-year-old and began a sexual relationship with her that lasted from 2022 until the end of 2023. The girl told investigators they had sex "countless times," and that Jones made her feel loved and cared about. She previously thought she was asexual, but told detectives Jone's assault changed her mind, and she said she quickly began to "crave" sex from him, which happened "anytime they were alone," court docs say.

According to court docs, the rapes happened at the girl's parents' house in Maple Valley and at Jones's house in Federal Way, and one time in a movie theater.

The two frequently communicated over the online app Discord, and Jones sent her several sexually explicit photos and videos.

Jones has a previous juvenile conviction for child molestation when he was around 13 years old, which required him to register as a sex offender until 2021. Court docs say Jones's behavior towards the 11-year-old mirrors his actions with several other children that led to his last conviction.

Discovery Playtown announced in a statement Wednesday that they run background checks on all of their employees, and Jones' check showed "no criminal history." Jones was hired at the daycare center while he was still a registered sex offender.

"First, our hearts go out to the involved children and their families. We are horrified by the recent revelations of wrongdoing by a former employee. We are cooperating fully to ensure justice is served.

"Since opening in 2016, Discovery Playtown has served over 300 families in our community. We are dedicated to the safety of the children in our care. On Sunday, May 5, 2024 we were informed of an allegation of child abuse involving employee Joseph Jones which occurred outside of our facility.

"On Monday, May 6, we met with our director, and following that meeting the decision was made to place her on administrative leave as we continued to gather information. On Thursday, May 9, we informed her of our decision to terminate her employment due to violations of company policies.

"Joseph Jones’ last day working at Discovery Playtown was on May 1 due to a voluntary leave, and prior to our discovery of the allegations against him. We subsequently terminated his employment effective May 6.

"Beth Peterson [Discovery Playtown co-owner] immediately assumed the director’s role.

"While working with law enforcement, we were advised on what we could share with our families so as not to compromise their active investigation.  Following these consultations, we sent a letter to our "families on the evening of May 8, and we have continued to stay in close communication with them.

"We have continued to have regular conversations with the King County Sheriff's deputy who is investigating the case, as well as our licensor from the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). It was confirmed to us that the incidents for which Mr. Jones has been arrested occurred outside of our facility and with children who have never been in our care. We were also informed that Mr. Jones has been a close friend of the victims’ family for "several years;" has been welcomed in their home; and accompanied them on a trip to Disneyland.

"To be employed in a licensed childcare facility, all employees must pass a criminal background check, which includes national fingerprinting through the FBI. The background check for Mr. Jones revealed no criminal history and we had no reason to believe he was unsuitable for employment in a childcare center.

"An investigator from DCYF will visit our facility this week and will interview each of our employees. The investigator will then make recommendations about the safety of our facility. We will continue to follow all requirements of our licensor.

"As mentioned, this is a heartbreaking situation for the children and families involved. No child should ever have to be subjected to this egregious treatment."

Their relationship soured when Jones turned his attention to her younger sister in 2023, who was around nine years old at the time, court docs say. Jones molested the child while they were sitting on a couch, and then he later confessed the assault to the older sister, according to court docs. The older sister told investigators she realized what Jones was doing was wrong, so she broke up with him.

On May 1, 2024, the younger sister reported the molestation to a family member, and the older sister then came forward with her account. Jones was arrested on May 31, 2024.

FOX 13 Seattle spoke to the victims' father. He did not want to use his name or show his face, but said he wants to get his story out to the public.

"You can't trust people just because you think they are coming from a place of, ‘well, they’ve been checked,' right, ‘well they’ve been vetted,' it means nothing.," the father told us. 

Jones is currently in custody on $500,000 bail. He is scheduled to be arraigned on June 13.


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