Three men were charged with crimes involving the selling and using of heroin in a “christian” home day care business while it was closed in a small rural Pennsylvania town. Police discovered the drug den after one of the men overdosed at around 9 p.m. on Saturday in the “Jesus’ Lil Helpers” Day Care facility.
Christian L. Kehler, 37, of 1114 N. Shamokin St., Shamokin, Ryan Varano, 28, of 114 S. Fifth St., Shamokin, and Frederick Russo, 49, of 1321 Chestnut St., Kulpmont, were each charged with felony criminal conspiracy and possession with intent to deliver and misdemeanor possession of an illegal substance.
Varano and Kehler were also charged with felony criminal use of a communication device, and misdemeanors of possession with intent to use drugs and, related to the potential harm of children, reckless endangerment of another person. Russo does not face those additional charges because he wasn’t at the day care Saturday night, police said.
The day care is owned by Varano’s mother Kelly Ebersole. Witnesses report that they have seen people coming in and out of the building after hours like this for years. The mother denies any involvement and has sworn to “press charges.”
The only problem with that is that moms don’t press felony heroin charges, the state does. And amazingly, parents desperate for child care in this rural and under served community are still bringing their children to this facility where hundreds of bags of heroin, some empty, some filled, were stashed throughout the facility. Syringes were found by police on tables and counters that children have access to. Heroin residue was reportedly on tables, chairs and counters in the place where children are supposed to be safe.
District Attorney Ann Targonski said the day care location makes the heroin sales and use especially distressing:
It’s upsetting to realize that heroin is being dealt in the same places where we send our children to be safe while we work. This particular instance occurred during hours when the day care was not in operation. However, the idea that people are doing drugs and selling drugs in what we would consider a safe haven for children is concerning.
Ebersole’s day care is licensed through the state Department of Human Services. Calls to the agency went unanswered concerning the status of their licensing. Ebersole claims they have given her the all clear to keep operating.
Again, most of the parents seem to be sticking by the mother of the christian day care center in this town where a simple search reveals there is room in Shamokin’s other home day care facilities for exactly 42 kids. This for a town of almost 8,000. The school system only offers 1/2 day pre school which surely increases the burden on these facilities. And if you figure only 2% of the population are day care aged children (a conservative estimate, for sure), you can see the wide gap between needed facilities and the facilities that actually exist.
One of Ebersole’s day care customers who asked to remain anonymous did raise some concerns however.
She indicated that while she believes Ebersole is “a good woman,” she is still concerned for her own child. She said her child had been feeling ill lately, and the news made her question if drugs caused his malaise.
“We have to make sure our kids are safe,” she said.
Others have commented that Ebersole must have known, and even if she didn’t the children were still probably exposed to the drugs.
The children at the daycare are the victims here. They were put in danger everyday they attended since this had been going on. Yes, the garbage human beings that are directly responsible for this should be held in the spotlight of blame but let’s not be distracted from what else may have been going on here.
I’m just saying I find it really hard to believe she had no idea. From what these articles are saying, it seems like this was going on for a while. When it comes to a sense of right or wrong you would be amazed at what some parents will let their children get away with. They know it’s wrong but they don’t want to see the kid get in trouble and they have no control themselves so they just create an illusion in their own minds that nothing is wrong.
Hopefully, this day care is further investigated, and shut down until everything is safe for it to operate as a child care facility.