Two Tennessee parents were charged with child abuse and aggravated assault after an observant Olive Garden waitress posted about their distressing behavior on Facebook.
Mark Lee Pierce, 33, and Jessica Woodwork, 36, were arrested after waitress Jordan Cooper, 21, took to social media to ask for the public’s help in identifying the couple, who she saw dining with their two children at the franchise’s Paducah, Kentucky, location on Sunday night.
“Tonight working at Paducah Olive Garden, I had a couple that came in with a child that was severely beaten in the face,” Cooper, who is 8-months pregnant, wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post obtained by WDSP. “Her face was black and blue all over. The guy in this picture was force feeding her food down her throat and grabbing her by her shirt and getting in her face.”
Cooper went on to describe how the man, later identified as Pierce, would continually take one of the young girls, who is just 20 months old, to the bathroom when she would cry.
“I couldn’t serve because my heart hurt so bad,” Woodwork wrote.
In hopes of helping the child, Cooper enlisted the help of her coworkers and another table to secretly take a photo of the parents.
However, after Cooper watched the man take an additional trip to the men’s room with the child and no diaper bag, she followed the pair in and asked the father, “What are you doing?”
Cooper told Yahoo Lifestyle that the confrontation caused Pierce to dash out of the bathroom and hurriedly request the check. The clever waitress said she then waited outside the restaurant for the family to get in their car and copied down their license plate number as they sped off.
“They drove away so fast, the mom didn’t even strap the baby into her car seat,” she told the outlet.
After Cooper shared the images, along with the concerning story, on Facebook, Aaron Caldwell, a childhood classmate of Cooper’s who happens to be a 911 operator, took notice.
“I got everything so I could run him and find who he was,” Caldwell told WDSP. “I found that and ended up contacting Paris Police Department, Tennessee.”
Local authorities arrested Pierce and Woodwork during a welfare check on their home that night. Responding officers reported observing significant signs of abuse, including facial bruising, on the child in question.
“I heard the conditions of the home were so horrific, a police officer had to collect himself outside,” Cooper told Yahoo Lifestyle.
Pierce and Woodwork are both being held on $200,000 bonds as the investigation continues.