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Baby’s bruises made Olive Garden waitress nervous — then cops made an arrest, police say

Recognizing signs of physical child abuse

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. According to Purva Grover, M.D., a pediatric eme
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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that more than 700,000 children are referred to child protective agencies as a result of abuse or neglect in the U.S. each year. According to Purva Grover, M.D., a pediatric eme

A waitress at a Western Kentucky Olive Garden noticed a severely bruised baby seated at one of her tables, and her quick work led to the arrests of two adults.

The actions Sunday of 21-year-old Jordan Cooper, who works at the chain restaurant in Paducah, are now being praised by people throughout the county.

Cooper, a native of nearby Metropolis, Ill., told media that she spotted a 20-month-old baby at a table with a man and woman, according to Yahoo Lifestyle.

“The baby was sitting in a high chair with a blanket over her head,” she told Yahoo. “When the blanket came off, her face had a lot of black-and-blue bruises.”

The waitress told WPSD, “I can’t even describe to you how bad she looked.”

Cooper, who is eight months pregnant, told her co-workers and one took a photograph of the family while they were at their table, according to Yahoo.

The man and the baby made three trips to the men’s restroom without a diaper bag, and they were followed by Cooper on the third visit there. She asked the man, “What are you doing?” when he was going to the restroom a third time, Yahoo reported.

After the man fled from the bathroom, he quickly asked for his check, according to Yahoo. When the couple and the baby went outside, Cooper followed them, noted their license plate number and called police, WPSD reported.

Once home, Cooper posted the details on Facebook with the photo to get more information about the couple, according to WSIL.

Aaron Caldwell, one of Cooper’s friends and a dispatcher for the Metropolis Police Department, got enough information from Facebook comments to identify the man in Cooper’s photo, according to WSIL.

“I got everything so I could run him and find who he was,” Caldwell told WPSD. “I found that and ended up contacting the Paris Police Department, Tennessee. I even went further into it through social media to find his girlfriend, who lives in Pulaski, Illinois.”

When Paris police received the tip that night, officers went to the man’s home to conduct a welfare check, WTPR reported. Officers noticed bruising on the child, and they told the couple to take the baby to a nearby hospital, according to WTPR.

The child had bruises from her jawline to her hairline, Yahoo said.

The couple, 33-year-old Mark Pierce and 36-year-old Jessica Woodworth, were arrested at the hospital, WTPR said. Both were charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect, WPSD reported.

“I couldn’t sleep that night, I was so worried,” Cooper told Yahoo. “It makes me feel good to know these children will be better off.”

Pierce and Woodworth were placed in Henry County (Tenn.) jail on $200,000 bonds, according to WTPR. It was not clear how the baby was related to Pierce and Woodworth. The baby and another child were taken into the state’s Department of Children’s Services custody, Yahoo reported.

Paris Police investigator Derrek Colley told WTPR Cooper “did an outstanding job. If she hadn’t noticed something and done all that, we wouldn’t have gotten the information.”

Cooper’s initial Facebook post, which has since been deleted, was shared more than 14,000 times, WPSD reported.

In a new post Thursday, she thanked those who applauded her efforts but said she didn’t want to be thanked for something she would hope most people would do.

“It’s our job as humans to protect these young children,” she said. “I work with an amazing company that I consider family and I thank them for also being an eye for those poor children. It wasn’t just me making a phone call.”

Mike Stunson covers breaking news and real-time news for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter.

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