A child care worker who authorities say force-fed an 8-month-old boy at an Oak Park private school, causing a tear in the child’s esophagus that needed emergency surgery, has been charged with aggravated battery of a child.
Karelia Michelle Montenegro, 35, was arrested late this week after a hospital official called 911 around midnight Wednesday to report a possible child abuse incident, Oak Park police said in a news release.
The boy usually goes to day care at the school, Oak Park Montessori, five days a week, starting at 7 a.m. On Tuesday, about 7:30 a.m., Montenegro roughly put the boy in a seat to feed him, and had difficulty when she tried to feed him quickly, said Assistant State’s Attorney Jamison Berger.
Montenegro “very forcefully shoved the spoon in the victim’s mouth approximately five to eight times,” Berger said. Montenegro forcefully cleaned the boy’s face before feeding him several more spoonfuls, then cleaning his face again, Berger said.
The boy became lethargic after being fed, Berger said. About two hours later, Montenegro noticed the left side of the boy’s neck was very swollen, and notified the mother about it, Berger said.
The boy’s parents took the child to a pediatrician, then the emergency room at West Suburban Medical Hospital in Oak Park.
The child was taken by ambulance to Lurie Children’s Hospital about 5 p.m. Wednesday from West Suburban, police said. The boy suffered an esophageal rupture, inflammation of chest tissue, sepsis and septic shock, according to Berger.
When he was examined by a doctor, the doctor determined the boy’s injuries were caused by trauma “which could have been done by a spoon,” Berger said.
When the director of the school reviewed surveillance video, the incident was visible, prosecutors said. When investigators saw the footage, they found that it showed a person who “appeared to be (Montenegro) force-feeding the infant,” police said.
Montenegro, of the 1300 block of south 50th Avenue in Cicero, was ordered held in lieu of $50,000 bond by a Cook County judge.