BELLEVILLE — A former East St. Louis preschool teacher who made children stand naked in a closet as a form of punishment for misbehavior in 2019 has been sentenced.
Mary M. Agbehia, 29, of South Holland near Chicago, was sentenced on Tuesday, Sept. 7, by Circuit Judge Zina Cruse to one year in prison and 24 months of probation, according to St. Clair County court records.
Agbehia was ordered to register as a violent offender against youth for 10 years. She also can't have any contact with the victims, or be in a profession involving children under 12 years old.
Agbehia's attorney, Jessica Koester, could not be reached for comment.
In July, Agbehia pleaded guilty to five felonies, including two counts of aggravated battery and three counts of unlawful restraint.
This came after she was charged with two counts of aggravated battery, a Class 3 felony, related to allegations that she took off a boy's shirt and a girl's clothing; five counts of unlawful restraint, a Class 4 felony, related to allegations that she ordered children to remove clothing and stand in a closet, or hold hands in the air for an extended period; and one count of failure to report child abuse or neglect, a Class A misdemeanor in 2019.
Two counts of unlawful restraint and the misdemeanor charge were dismissed under a plea agreement with the St. Clair County state's attorney's office.
Agbehia was hired at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville operated Head Start program in 2016. The program is in the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis.
In March 2019, SIUE Police Chief Kevin Schmoll reported that a Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center supervisor had alerted police four days earlier that a teacher was making children ages 4 and 5, who would misbehave by talking or not listening, stand in a closet naked with the door open for five or 10 minutes before they could put their clothes back on and rejoin class.
An SIUE spokesman said Agbehia left her job with the school in July 2019.
Shavonda L. Willis, 43, of Fairview Heights, a teacher's aide was also charged in connection with the case. She was hired at the Head Start program in 2013.
In May 2019, Willis was charged with four counts of aggravated battery, a Class 3 felony, related to allegations that she touched a girl with an object used to pretend she was giving the children an injection; five counts of unlawful restraint, a Class 4 felony, related to allegations that she ordered children to remove clothing and stand in a closet; and one count of failure to report child abuse or neglect, a Class A misdemeanor.
As of this week, Willis' case has a pending court appearance.