Former daycare employee pleads not guilty to child sex offenses

A Federal Way man, a former daycare employee in Maple Valley, has pleaded not guilty to child sex offenses.

Joseph Hefner, 25, pleaded not guilty to felony charges including rape of a child in the first degree, child molestation in the first degree, and communication with a minor for immoral purposes at his arraignment hearing June 13 in King County Superior Court.

King County prosecutors filed charges against Hefner on June 4, charging him with having sexual intercourse, sexual contact, and communicating in a sexual nature with two minors in incidents within a range of Jan. 1, 2022, to May 2, 2024, after he met the family of the two minors working at Discovery Playtown, a daycare in Maple Valley, and maintained a friendship with the children’s family for years, according to an prosecutorial documents.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, the two minors were both less than 12 years old at the time of the incidents, with Hefner having been 23 years old to 25 years old in that timespan.

According to prosecutors, Hefner additionally held a previous juvenile conviction for child molestation in the first degree from a 2012 case, having served as a registered sex offender until 2021, according to prosecutorial documents.

In 2021, Hefner’s record was sealed, allowing Hefner to apply for work at Discovery Playtown, where he was employed until 2024, the Renton Reporter previously reported. It was reported that the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families revoked Discovery Playtown’s license on June 10 to investigate the issue further.

Law enforcement arrested Hefner on May 31 at his residence following an investigation after the two minors disclosed to family members regarding the incidents with Hefner, and the family reported Hefner to law enforcement.

The court denied Hefner’s motion for release and to reduce bail, and confirmed Hefner’s bail at $500,000, as set at his first appearance hearing on June 4.

The court scheduled Hefner’s next hearing for June 25, and Hefner’s jury trial was scheduled for Aug. 5, 2024.