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From Staff Reports Published: October 28, 2007
He told DHS: "From that day on I haven't been in any more trouble with the law ... or my children.” His wife, Jeri Hurte, told The Oklahoman: "It was very minor ... I resent what you guys are doing.”

Prostitution, forgery
A former prostitute, Mary L. Shephard, got permission last year to work in her sister's day care in Oklahoma City. She pleaded guilty in 1986 to prostitution and in 1993 to forging two checks. Police reported a witness in the forgery case said she "had called him and told him she was going to burn his house down for having the law come to her house.” There are two warrants out for her arrest for failure to pay court costs, according to the Oklahoma County sheriff's office.

Shephard, 47, told DHS: "I know that my past is all behind me and I have moved forward to a better life.” Her sister, day care owner Tammy Wrice, told The Oklahoman: "You've got to help people that they really mean to change their life. ... God give you the chance, the opportunity, you got to do the same if people really meant it.”

Child abuse
DHS in 2001 revoked Josephine Venturella's license to operate her Grandma's Day Care in Oklahoma City after she allegedly abused her 2-year-old foster son. She later pleaded no contest to child abuse and was put on probation for three years. Despite that, DHS in December gave her permission to work in a day care.

Venturella, 61, told DHS she is innocent and the boy was injured when another foster child pulled him off a rocking horse. She wrote: "It would be a great injustice to keep me from a job I love.” She told The Oklahoman she is now retired but declined comment.

Drug abuse, dealing
Mary A. Thompson, 48, was granted an exemption last year to work at an Oklahoma City child care center after she told DHS she'd turned her life around. She wrote, "I stay out of trouble.” She pleaded guilty in 1988 to cocaine possession with intent to distribute. Police reported an armed murder suspect from Texas was in her home when it was raided.

DHS fraud
DHS last year gave a waiver to an Oklahoma City woman who once cheated DHS out of $3,362 in welfare assistance and food stamps. A DHS investigator reported she lied, claiming no income when she was working two jobs. Quondonia Denese Reed pleaded guilty in 1994 to the fraud and to a crack cocaine dealing offense. Police seized cocaine, three loaded handguns and "gang-related pictures” when they raided her home. Reed, 39, told DHS, "All I need is a chance. I have vowed to save as many young people as I can, not to have to go through what I did.”

Domestic abuse, assault
DHS gave an Oklahoma City child care provider a waiver to have Shon Christopher Lane, 35, in her day care even though he assaulted his wife in 2001 and shot up a bedroom door in 1995 during a confrontation with another man.

Lane was fined and put on probation for the 2001 domestic abuse. Police reported he admitted grabbing his wife by the neck and pushing her over a car trunk. He was not charged for the 1995 fight.

He told DHS, "At no time would I bring any harm or danger to any child.” The day care provider, Erica Robinson, told The Oklahoman she posted the waiver letter but parents never ask about Lane's past.

"Basically, I guess they figure if DHS approved him, then it must be all right,” she said.

Convicted robber Mark Garrett, 37, and his wife Kristie sought an exemption so they could open a day care in their Oklahoma City home. He wrote, "My strikes against me were over 10 years ago. I was young and making stupid mistakes.”

DHS consented in January 2006. It turned out to be a poor decision.

Since then, Kristie Garrett has twice filed for protective orders against her husband. She told a judge the last time, "He continues to call and say all of the horrible things he is going to do to me. He stated that the police will find me ‘sleeping.' He stated he was ready to go to war.”

Neither could be reached for comment.

Prescription forgery
Kimberly K. Johnson, 38, was given an exemption a year ago to work at the Advanced Children's Learning Center in Oklahoma City even though she had been convicted six times of forged prescription crimes and had been to prison. In one case, police reported, she allegedly was selling prescriptions from a doctor's stolen pad for $50 each.

Johnson told DHS she forged prescriptions because she was addicted to pain killers after surgeries. "Since my release, my life has been different,” she wrote.

She worked at the center only a couple of months but was a good employee, Director Linda Ellis said.

Assaulting a police officer
DHS gave James Richard Johnston, 27, of Pryor an exemption last year so his wife could run a day care even though he assaulted a police officer in 2004. The day care has since closed.

He told DHS he pulled a man off a friend during a fight outside a Wal-Mart. He wrote he did not realize the man, who was in a T-shirt and jeans, was a police officer trying to arrest his friend for shoplifting. He told DHS he is a lot more careful now in choosing friends. The officer said Johnston "hit him in the head and then started choking” him, according to a police report.

Domestic abuse
Rick L. Gregg, 46, pleaded no contest in 1998 to a misdemeanor abuse charge that accused him of repeatedly striking his then-wife about the face and head. She filed for a protective order, alleging he had abused her, held her hostage and threatened her with a shotgun.

"They were lies,” he told DHS, which allowed him a waiver in April so his current wife, Pennie Gregg, can operate a day care in Shawnee.

Pennie Gregg told The Oklahoman, "He's not violent. My day care kids love him. They call him, ‘Daddy,' as a matter of fact. ... And he loves kids. ... If he was violent, I wouldn't be with him.”

Inciting a riot
LaSaundra Kay Wilson got permission in February to care for children even though she once was charged with inciting a riot in Tulsa. Police officers testified she called them names and tried to get a crowd to stop them from making a drug arrest in 1988. One officer said she told the rioters, "Let's get them.” She eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge — interfering with a police officer. She also was charged in 1992 with crack cocaine possession and pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of obstructing an officer. Wilson, 42, told DHS she learned from her mistake. "GOD! WORK! LOVE!” she wrote.

Assault, vandalism
Day care owner Tana Hunter got a waiver last year for her daughter, Shemeka Brown, to work in her Tulsa home day care despite her daughter's 2002 assault charge.

"Since then, Shemeka hasn't been in any trouble,” Hunter told DHS.

Brown, 22, was charged in August with vandalizing another woman's vehicle. "”I don't know anything about that,” Hunter said. "If she can't work for me, she just can't work for me ... because I'm trying to do it right. ... I'm not going to get myself in trouble.”

Josephine Venturella


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