Paducah, Kentucky-Jordan Cooper, 21, and her colleagues being hailed as heroes after raising the alarm when Mark Lee Pierce, 33, and girlfriend, Jessica Woodworth, 36, came in for dinner in Paducah, Kentucky.
Jordan said the pair entered with a 20 on the old baby who had “a face that said ‘help’”.
Jordan is a waitress who works at a branch of Olive Garden. She said, “I can’t even describe to you how bad she looked and how and why nobody noticed it.”
Jordan, who is eight months pregnant, was alarmed when a blanket over the child’s head was removed-revealing her injuries. Pierce began force-feeding the distressed toddler who was squirming in her high chair. Jordan said the man “shoved breadsticks into her mouth and said, “You’d better eat this” and got in her face while she whimpered.”
Jordan and her stunned colleagues then decided to take action - by asking customers at a neighbouring table to help them stage a photo. She slipped the second couple her phone number and quietly asked them to request a waiter take their photo. The co-worker then used the chance to take a snap of Pierce and Woodworth at the next table without alerting them.
Jordan finally decided to intervene when she allegedly noticed Pierce taking the baby to the men's bathroom for the third time during their meal - without carrying a nappy bag.She asked him what he was doing, which prompted the man and his partner to quickly request the bill and leave, she says.
Jordan then followed them out to the car and took down their licence plate. She added: "They drove away so fast, the mom didn't even strap the baby into her car seat.”
After contacting the police and the Department of Children and Family Services, the couple were arrested in neighbouring Tennessee. Posting about her experience on Facebook along with the image of the group, Jordan wrote: "Tonight working at Paducah Olive Garden, I had a couple that came in with a child that was severely beaten in the face. Her face was black and blue all over.
"The guy in this picture was force feeding her food down her throat and grabbing her by her shirt and getting in her face… I couldn't serve because my heart hurt so bad."
The post was shared 14,000 times and Cooper says her "phone would not stop going off" - prompting her to later delete the post once police confirmed they were investigating.
Detectives say they found the baby living in squalid conditions with bruises from her jawline to her hairline. They arrested Pierce and Woodworth on suspicion of child abuse.Child Services took the baby and another child into care after the infant visited the hospital for checks. Woodworth, of Pulaski, Illinois, and Pierce were being held yesterday on child abuse and neglect charges on $200,000 bond.