BILLINGS — In a three-day span, a van at Little Pumpkin Patch Daycare in Billings was broken into twice. The second time, the perpetrator made sure that locked doors didn’t get in the way.
Vandalism is a surprising find for anyone working in a daycare, but it was just the start last week for assistant director JustinAnn Mraz after she discovered what happened to the van.
"When I buckled in the first kid, I found cigarette butts in the seat. Then when I climbed into the backseat to buckle the next one in and I knelt on the seat. My leg was wet. Unusual, had no idea why," said Mraz on Tuesday.
The perpetrator did more than just smoke in the van. What Mraz knelt in was urine. A van used to pick up kids was broken into, smoked in and soaked in urine and alcohol.
But Mraz did all she could to fix the problem after the company filed a police report.
"She actually took time out of her Sunday to pick up the van and take it to get it deep cleaned," said Little Pumpkin Patch owner Victoria Johnson on Tuesday.
The daycare discovered that the side door of the van hadn’t been locking, which is how the perpetrator got in the first time. So, they made sure it was locked tight over the weekend.
On Sunday night, the perpetrator returned.
"Monday we came in and the lock was broken off and everything was ripped out of the car.... We’ve lost our screen, and then the dash itself actually is broken and flops now. It doesn’t stay put. And then right above the middle of our seats, that’s where our TV used to be mounted," added Mraz.
Senseless destruction, but Mraz said the situation could’ve been worse.
"Our biggest fear is something being in the van that the kids could’ve gotten a hold of. What if it hadn’t been cigarettes and alcohol what if it had been heroin in the seat and their was a needle in the seat that I didn’t see?" Mraz said.
They say they don’t anticipate finding the person responsible and will probably be left to wonder what caused them to do it in the first place.
"Small children ride in those vans, and you’re damaging something that we use for a childcare facility. It’s not like it’s a big money thing. We use that to pick up kids from school, really for our community. It’s heartbreaking that they damaged something to the point that we may not be able to replace it, or it may not be worth replacing," Johnson added.