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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

6 May Have Been Molested at Day-Care, Police Say

March 08, 2001|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SIMI VALLEY — As detectives continued to question children who attended a day-care center where a 63-year-old man was arrested on molestation allegations, authorities said as many as six young girls are suspected victims.

"It could be more but that is what we're looking at right now," Sgt. Bob Gardner of the Simi Valley Police Department said Wednesday. "[Detectives] are still doing follow-up interviews."

The alleged victims are ages 3 to 11, Gardner said.

Kenyon Niedert, a retired electrician whose wife, Billie, operates Niedert Family Child Care in the 4000 block of Helene Street, is scheduled to be arraigned today in Ventura County Superior Court.

He was arrested Tuesday morning after a standoff with police that began when he reportedly threatened to shoot himself. He was booked at Ventura County Jail on suspicion of committing multiple sex acts with children, authorities said. His bail remained at $500,000 Wednesday.

In Sacramento, an official with the Department of Social Services, which licenses day-care centers, said that action against the Niedert day-care center could come as early as today, although he declined to say what it would be.

"We're strongly encouraging [parents] not to go back to the facility, because we don't know when he will be there," spokesman John Gordon said. "If he is released on bail and we find he is in the house, that will allow us to take more immediate action. Obviously our priority is making sure our children are safe."

Niedert had been fingerprinted for a background check when his wife applied for the license, Gordon said, and no problems were found.

The day-care center remained closed Wednesday, a day after Billie Niedert made several early morning phone calls to parents telling them not to drop their children off.

Police widened their investigation Wednesday to include parents of children who attended the day-care center in the past year.

Neighbors have said that Niedert had a heart attack about a year ago and has remained close to home and involved with the day-care center in the months since.

Neighbor Brian Pedigow, who placed his 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son in their care, said his wife will stop working temporarily to care for their children.

Pedigow said the stress of the last 24 hours has taken its toll on his family. After scrambling for a day-care alternative and taking his children to the Police Department to be interviewed by detectives early Tuesday, "I really don't have anything left to say. I just want to put this behind me."

Others in the neighborhood wondered about the future of the day-care center, while at least one parent awaiting another round of interviews with detectives insisted that people not jump to conclusions.

"The main thing you need to say in your story is that Billie [Niedert] is a wonderful person," said the woman as she sat with her husband and two young children in the station's lobby. "This is devastating because so many mean things have been said."

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