WHITEHALL, Ohio -- WHITEHALL, Ohio — A Lancaster woman is under arrest, and a police investigation is underway in Whitehall, after a Facebook account messaged multiple mothers across Central Ohio, asking to babysit their children for free.
The account is linked to a woman with a criminal record of child endangerment, and has been writing to mothers asking to watch their children, while using phrases like "kidnap," "steal" or "pry" their children from them. Ashley Drake, 30, is accused of violating terms of her probation in Fairfield County, and is suspected of sending the dozens of messages, according to an official in the county prosecutor's office.
The Whitehall investigation came after a local resident, Millie Rodgers, received eight separate such messages from the Facebook account and reported the incident to police. Rodgers also showed those messages to ABC 6 / FOX 28.
The Facebook accounts use a picture and aliases belonging to Ashley Drake, 30, of Lancaster. The accounts have since been deactivated or hidden from public view, but screenshots of the messages show a clear recent pattern making offers to care for babies and very young children. Some of the messages use friendly but alarming language like, "Are you ready for a break yet from your baby girl? I want to snuggle and get my spoil on! I can pick her up tomorrow...will keep until you make me bring her back!"
Other messages say the writer has baby formula and diapers, so that the mothers would not need to provide anything for child care.
Court records show that the woman depicted in the Facebook accounts, Ashley Drake, pleaded guilty in 2017 to felony child endangerment in Fairfield County after she bathed a three-year-old in scalding hot water, resulting in burns all over the toddler's body. The girl is the daughter of Darrian Edmister, who spoke with ABC 6 /FOX 28 on Monday.
"After I had (my daughter). she messaged me on Facebook like, 'your daughter’s so cute, can I please watch her?'” says Edmister. "I was 16 at the time, so that was good for me."
The mom says she noticed some odd things, like bruising on her daughter, after Drake babysat. After the burning incident, Edmister says she secured an order of protection against Drake. A court-order also barred Drake from ever offering daycare services as part of her probation.
Last week, Darrian Edmister began noticing Facebook comments from other young mothers, about strange messages from the same accounts on Facebook that Edmister knew were linked to Ashley Drake.
"I just want to let all these moms know: don’t let her watch your kid," Edmister said on Monday.
No one answered a door-knock at the address where Drake was ordered to reside in court documents. A phone number written in the many Facebook messages was disconnected.
Anyone who receives such messages from any Facebook account, should report them to a local police department. Whitehall Police say anyone seeking child care should do so through avenues that provide background screenings, such as babysitting smartphone apps or websites — or, ask a trusted family member for help.