Charges: Day care provider pinned child to mattress as punishment

A Golden Valley day care provider used pajamas as straitjackets and pinned young children in her care to mattresses as a form of punishment, authorities said in charges filed in Hennepin County District Court.

The charges filed Monday against Arvilla Marie Lilly Meinhardt, 70, said police found pajamas with large safety pins in them and a mattress that appeared to have pin holes in it at the home day care center Meinhardt runs for children under age 4.

Police found out about Meinhardt's alleged punishment tactic from a 7-year-old girl who used to attend the day care.

Meinhardt was charged with malicious punishment of a child and false imprisonment, which are both gross misdemeanors. According to the criminal complaint, Meinhardt told a police detective she had been using the practice to control children for about eight years on children who were 2 and 3 years old.

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A straitjacket was created by taking a child's arms out of the pajama sleeves and pinning the sleeves behind their backs, Meinhardt said, according to court documents. The pajama legs would be pinned together at the children's calves. The pajama zipper would also be pinned so that the children could not get out of the pajamas, she told police.

Meinhardt did not tell children's parents about the practice, authorities said.

Meinhardt, along with her husband and daughter, were arrested Friday but have since been released. Meinhardt's husband and daughter have not been charged with any crimes.

Meinhardt's attorney, John Leunig, said Tuesday that he's unhappy prosecutors and reports in the news media are making it look like his client is some kind of monster. Leunig said Meinhardt has a clean criminal record.

"The truth is she has dozens and dozens of happy clients," Leunig said. "She's a nice lady and she's never done anything wrong in her life."