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Willmar daycare is temporarily shut by state during investigation

WILLMAR -- A Willmar daycare that has been temporarily closed by the state since mid-October is being investigated for allegations that the provider kept infants locked in a basement storage room.

The Kandiyohi County Family Services Department confirmed Tuesday that the state issued a "temporary immediate suspension" for Shelly Schueller Family Child Care, which operated at 104 33rd St. N.W.

The suspension went into effect Oct. 18 or 19, several days after the county received a complaint, said Corinne Torkelson, family services supervisor who oversees the daycare licenses in Kandiyohi County.

The suspension was issued by the state based on the allegations, the investigation and recommendations by the county, Torkelson said, adding that these types of suspensions are rare.

There have been two issued by the state this year in Kandiyohi County, but there have been about three issued in the past four or five years.

"They don't happen very often," said Torkelson, and are reserved for when complaints are serious enough to warrant taking away a daycare provider's livelihood.

The suspension is being appealed, according to the state Department of Human Services.

The state can either reinstate the license or permanently revoke it following the completion of a family services investigation, which can take 45 to 90 days, Torkelson said.Willmar Police Chief David Wyffels said the initial complaint was that children were being kept in an unfinished room "against their will." But he said the county family services department has not forwarded information to law enforcement to prompt a criminal investigation at this point.

Wyffels said it appears the case is a domestic situation between Schueller and a former boyfriend, Hilario Vargas, who filed the complaint with the county.

In an interview Tuesday afternoon with the West Central Tribune, Vargas acknowledges the situation involves a lot of "he said" and "she said" anecdotes, but he said his complaint, and a video he shot that allegedly shows young children in cribs in a room with insulation on the walls, is the truth and is not fabricated.

The video was shown Monday night on KSAX Television.

Vargas said he gave the video to the television station in hopes that it would help him win back custody of a son he has with Schueller and show her former daycare parents that he "was not the bad guy."

Vargas said he shot the video this summer but didn't immediately give it to the county because he was afraid Schueller would retaliate and not let him see his son. He said Schueller filed an order for protection against him several days after he gave the video to the county and after Schueller was confronted by county social service workers. As a result of the court order, Vargas sees his son only during supervised visits, he said.

Repeated efforts Tuesday to reach Schueller were not successful.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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