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Nov 1, 2016 5:58 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Trial Of Second Worker At Former Day Care Center In Southampton Wraps Up

Kathleen Culver arrives at Southampton Town Justice Court on Tuesday morning.  DANA SHAW
Nov 3, 2016 4:56 PM

UPDATE: Thursday, 4:20 p.m.

The prosecuting and defense attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments in Southampton Town Justice Court on Thursday afternoon in the trial of Ms. Culver on charges of endangering the welfare of a child.

No decision was immediately given on the case, and Justice Weber decided to reserve his decision until a date no later than the first of the year.

Justice Weber is expected to make his decision on the fate of Ms. Culver and Ms. Dawber at the same time. It is also expected that Justice Weber will present his decision to both Ms. Aguanno and Colin Astarita, the attorney representing Ms. Dawber, in written form.

Justice Weber noted that he would be out for a while, but plans to review the testimony during that time off.

UPDATE: Thursday, 10:15 a.m.

Prosecutors continued to present their case in Southampton Town Justice Court on Wednesday in the trial of Ms. Culver on charges of endangering the welfare of a child.

Donna Balchunas, another former day care worker at the Side By Side Child Care Center, took the stand in the afternoon and testified that Ms. Marin came to her shortly after the incident with the 16-month-old boy. Ms. Balchunas said Ms. Marin was hysterically crying and told her that she had witnessed Ms. Culver force feed the child, slam him on the ground and then he hit his head.

Ms. Balchunas said she did not report the incident to CPS, but instead went to Carol Hurteau who worked at the day care as an administrative assistant, who in turn went to tell Ms. Bobrowsky.

But the argument that Ms. Aguanno made was that Ms. Balchunas was a mandated reporter and should have reported the incident to CPS within 24 hours of finding out. Ms. Balchunas testified that she took an online course to become a mandated reporter and that she knew she was supposed to go to CPS and not the day care director.

Ms. Balchunas also testified that she went to Ms. Hurteau because “It’s not like Kathleen whipped a kid.” Ms. Balchunas said she thought the director superseded going to CPS.

During Ms. Dauber’s trial in early September, Ms. Hurteau testified that all new employees are given a copy of the employee handbook. On Wednesday, Ms. Aguanno pointed to page 9 of the handbook, which is a section about reporting child abuse. The handbook specifically says that all employees are legally obligated to report any child abuse to CPS within 24 hours, which Ms. Balchunas said she did not do.

In her testimony, Ms. Balchunas said she did not hate or dislike Ms. Culver, but that she hated what she did to the kids. Ms. Balchunas said Ms. Culver would take away pacifiers, and at one point even had a child stand in front of the 16-month-old boy only to scream at him and create fear.

To that point, Ms. Balchunas said she never saw Ms. Culver throw the boy on the ground, causing him to hit his head. She also never saw bruising or any sort of physical harm—only yelling.

The trial is expected to continue on Thursday.


The prosecution began presenting its case on Tuesday at the outset of the trial of a second day care worker accused of verbally, physically and emotionally abusing a toddler at a Southampton child care facility last year.

Kathleen Culver, 33, of Southampton faces a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child at the former Side By Side Child Care Center on North Sea Road in Southampton. The case is in Southampton Town Justice Court, and she is being represented by Melissa Aguanno, a Sag Harbor-based attorney.

Southampton Town Justice Gary J. Weber is on the bench; he also is overseeing the trial of Sarah Dawber, another day care worker who was charged with endangering the welfare of a different child at the same facility, and whose trial ended in September. Justice Weber has delayed a ruling in that case until Ms. Dawber’s trial is completed.

Like Ms. Dawber, Ms. Culver chose to have her trial decided by Justice Weber instead of a jury.

In her opening statement on Tuesday, prosecuting attorney Jamie Greenwood, of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office, said that near Christmastime in 2014, Ms. Culver had endangered the welfare of a 16-month-old boy at the Southampton day care center when the boy would not eat. According to Ms. Greenwood, a frustrated Ms. Culver repeatedly kicked the child’s high chair, then lifted him out and slammed him on the floor, so that he hit his head on the floor.

Ms. Greenwood’s claims were echoed by Lori Marin, another former worker at Side By Side, who took the stand on Tuesday. Ms. Marin said the boy had difficulty eating, and was picking at his food and throwing it on the floor. That particular day, she said, Ms. Culver got angry and told the boy he needed to eat his food.

She said Ms. Culver kicked the back of the high chair four or five times to push it closer to the table, meanwhile yelling at the toddler. Eventually, Ms. Culver picked the boy up out of the chair by the back of his shirt and slammed him on the floor, causing him to hit his head, according to Ms. Marin.

“She threw him down on the floor and said, ‘That’s what you get for not eating,’” Ms. Marin said.

She testified that when she went to check on the child, Ms. Culver told her, “Don’t pick him up—he has to learn.”

Ms. Marin said she did not report the incident to Child Protective Services but instead to Kimberly Bobrowsky, a former owner of Side By Side.

In her cross-examination of Ms. Marin, who remains 
employed as a day care worker at another facility, Ms. 
Aguanno, the defense attorney, noted that Ms. Marin was required to report all instances of abuse or endangerment to Child Protective Services—an assertion disputed by Ms. Marin, who said she was not a “mandated reporter” at the time of the incident, although she is now.

Ms. Marin also said she was in shock at the time and did not fill out a report, to be given to the child’s legal guardian, to say he had been harmed at school—adding that she did not believe the child had, in fact, been harmed. Shortly after being slammed onto the carpet, the child was moving around and playing as normal, according to her testimony.

The only adults in the room at the time were Ms. Marin and Kathleen Culver, according to yesterday’s testimony.

Southampton Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa testified on Tuesday as well, noting that, when a colleague, Detective Timothy Williams, first interviewed Ms. Culver on August 28, when police were called after the incident, Ms. Culver was jittery and broke out in hives on her head and chest.

On Wednesday, Ms. Aguanno said there were a lot of things that did not make sense during the trial on Tuesday.

“... My client was not part of any investigation until 8 months later, when Sarah Dawber was arrested,” she said. “Nobody ever contacted the police or CPS with regard to my client’s alleged abuse.

“I would hope that people are being open and listening to the testimony and that people are going to ask themselves if this case really makes any sense,” she added.

The trial is scheduled to 
continue on Wednesday, November 2, at 2 p.m., when prosecutors will continue to make their case.

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I hope she doesn't have any children of her own.
By Kitten (5), Hampton Bays on Nov 1, 16 8:16 PM
she does !
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Nov 3, 16 8:58 AM
Innocent until proven guilty
By Nukiepoo (123), Southampton on Nov 3, 16 1:29 AM
2 members liked this comment
You hope Mrs. Balchunas does not have kids? As an educator if someone tells me that they saw something wrong, my advise would have been the same speak to a counselor or administrator. She didn't see the abuse. If you read the document she was in her rights to advise another worker to seek administration's advice. I was at the trial and this newspaper twisted up and took out many of the details.
Please read.
Nov 3, 16 12:45 PM appended by nobody'sbusiness
I just noticed the comment about kids was not about Donna Balchunas.
By nobody'sbusiness (1), southampton on Nov 3, 16 12:45 PM
From Mandated reporting website:. Anyone who is mandated to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment - and fails to do so - could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and subject to criminal penalties. Further, mandated reporters can be sued in a civil court for monetary damages for any harm caused by the mandated reporter's failure to make the report to the SCR.

In order for a Day care to be licensed in NYS, all employees should have this training within the 1st 6 months of ...more
By Norma_Ray (1), southampton on Nov 3, 16 3:21 PM
God save you if you have to release your care of your child to these day care facilities - Kids are exposed to illness and maltreatment at ages of less than one year and on - and overly stimulated and socialized - they need to be at home and in safe and caring environments - Too bad that the demands of our society preclude mothers and fathers from staying at home to care for their own children themselves or prevent them from hiring reliable help to come into the home where the individual child's ...more
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Nov 10, 16 12:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By lovemylife (9), Deer Park on Jul 27, 17 9:07 PM