Investigator Exclusive: Armed and mentally ill felon worked at daycare

2:36 PM, Jun 22, 2010   |    comments
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James Ballinger, 50, was taken into custody last Thursday following a police chase that began near 44th Street and Lorain Avenue, where Ballinger lives in an apartment above HappyWorks Daycare, police said.

Records show his mother owns the daycare, which three dozen children attend each day.

Ballinger drove away from the daycare after seeing police outside, according to a report of the incident.

When cops surrounded him blocks away, they had to break the car's windows to get inside. Ballinger had four loaded handguns, two buck knives and a bullet-proof vest on when he was taken into custody.

They also found two other guns in apartment following the incident.

Police had gone to the daycare to take Ballinger to a mental institution because his family feared Ballinger might burn down a police station he'd been staking out, according to the police report.

Ballinger suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and believes he's a secret agent, according to a police report.

He also has a 1998 felony conviction for leading police on a high-speed chase, court records show. As part of that case, Ballinger was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment as part of his probation.

Yet even with his past, Channel 3 News obtained records showing Ballinger began working at HappyWorks in 2002 as a custodian.

Repeated attempts to contact the daycare center and its owner, Judy Ballinger, were unsuccessful.

The state Department of Jobs and Family Services, which regulates child care centers, did not know of Ballinger's mental illness or his 1998 conviction, said spokesman Ben Johnson.

State law didn't require criminal background checks of employees who didn't have direct contact with children until 2008.

The department, however, did cite HappyWorks for a serious violation last year because Ballinger did not fill out a self-reporting background check form.

The department said HappyWorks responded by firing Ballinger last August.

Yet Channel 3 News found Cleveland Municipal Court records indicating Happyworks was still garnishing Ballinger's wages just days before his arrest last week.

Johnson said the state plans to look into why that was the case, adding that it could be a serious violation if HappyWorks was still employing Ballinger after it said he was dismissed.


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