Just hours after the body of a five-year-old child was discovered in a driveway on Demetropolis Road, police arrested an employee of a daycare in Mobile when she came to speak to investigators of her own volition.
According to the Mobile County Metro Jail, 46-year-old Valarie Rena Patterson was arrested and charged with “corpse abuse” early Tuesday morning — a charge District Attorney Ashley Rich has confirmed to be related to the child’s body found Monday afternoon in Mobile.
Those same records indicate Patterson has a lengthy criminal history in Mobile County and Florida that includes charges for theft and for “negotiating a worthless instrument” — a charge often filed against individuals who write bad checks.
At a press conference Tuesday, Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste confirmed Patterson to be an employee of the Community Nursery and Preschool Academy on Hillcrest Road, though it remains unclear how she was employed at the daycare.
The facility is operated by Community Church Ministries, Inc., which a search of a database kept by the Alabama Department of Human Resources revealed has claimed the religious exemption from state day care licensing permitted under Alabama law.
Also on Tuesday, Battiste identified the victim as 5-year-old Kamden Johnson, though police are waiting on the results of an autopsy from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences before releasing any information about the cause and manner of Johnson’s death.Battiste said Patterson came to speak with MPD officers “of her own accord” in the late hours of Aug. 21.
He described her as “somewhat” cooperative with investigators. In addition to “corpse abuse” — a Class C felony — Battiste said Patterson could face additional charges once the autopsy report from Johnson’s death has been completed by ADFS.
Patterson lists an address located on South Gulf Terra Drive, and police were said to have been investigating a residence there Tuesday morning. A bond hearing for Patterson is also expected sometime Tuesday or Wednesday, according to police in Mobile.
While investigators have kept most of the early details under wraps, Battiste assured local parents that the evidence seen so far doesn’t suggest any kind of random act caused the death of Kamden Johnson. He said Patterson’s arrest on Tuesday should indicate that as well.
“On my desk, I have a picture of my sons when they were in elementary school, and when I looked at that, the first thing I thought of was Kamden,” he said. “It’s extremely traumatic for an organization to go through something like this.”
Lagniappe will have more information on this developing story once it’s released by authorities.