The state has cleared a 33-year-old Normal woman of child abuse allegations connected to her dispute with a child care center that spilled into public view on social media.
Tricia Danyus was charged in 2017 with filing a false police report and obstruction of justice—both felonies—after she allegedly went on Facebook and accused A Shining Star Learning Center in Normal of abusing her child. Police say Danyus knew those allegations were false and repeated them to investigators.
However, the case against Danyus fell apart last June. At her lawyer’s request, a judge tossed out a large part of her initial interview with Normal Police. The judge agreed that the presence of a Department of Children and Family Services investigator—who put Danyus at ease by saying she’d be treated more favorably if she admitted to striking her own child—was problematic. With the interview inadmissible, Danyus pleaded guilty in July to a lesser charge, misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
Danyus admitted to “making a statement that inferred that an employee of A Shining Star Learning Center had acted improperly toward a minor … and that statement alarmed the personnel of (the center) and provoked a breach of peace,” court records show. She received six months of court supervision and four days in jail.
“We knew if we didn't take it, the case would drag on for several more months,” her husband, Justin Danyus, told GLT. Her attorney, Steve Skelton, did not respond to a request for comment.
After Danyus’ arrest in 2017, Normal Police called the case “extremely troubling.” When asked for comment last week, Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner stood by his department’s work.
NPD’s criminal investigation “developed probable cause that Ms. Danyus’ statements were false and in violation of the criminal statute. Detectives from our department conducted an investigation into alleged criminal conduct on the part of the day care, which they cooperated fully in. The investigation showed that there was no criminal conduct whatsoever on the part of the day care or anyone working for them.
“We are not in charge of licensing or regulating day cares. That responsibility falls to the state, which conducted a separate inquiry of the day care,” Bleichner added. “Our department works jointly with DCFS on child welfare investigations and we look at our practices in each case for areas where we can improve, including who is present during alleged criminal interviews.”
The case didn’t end there.
The Pantagraph reported Jan. 24 that Danyus and her husband, Justin, were recently removed from a DCFS list of known child abusers. A DCFS spokesperson confirmed to GLT this week that abuse allegations against Danyus were determined to be unfounded after an appeal.
The DCFS issued four violations against Shining Star in December 2017. It was cited for violating rules for washing hands after changing a diaper; listening skills, availability and responsiveness to children; flexibility, understanding and patience; and respect for children and adults. It’s unclear whether those four violations are connected to the Danyus case. The violations were corrected.
Shining Star executive director Jyl Waller told GLT her center was “cleared of any wrongdoing by DCFS.”
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