Battle Creek stepmother charged with
Child Abuse of twin girls
BATTLE CREEK, MI – A Battle Creek stepmother is facing up to life in prison if convicted of child abuse of twin sisters.
Ashley Swartout, 25, was arraigned Thursday in Calhoun County District Court on one count of first-degree child abuse and one count of second-degree child abuse.
She faces up to life in prison on the first-degree charge and 10 years in prison on the second-degree charge.
Swartout was arrested Monday after Battle Creek police obtained a warrant following an investigation which began Dec. 16.
Police said Swartout and her husband, Nathaniel Callahan, 28, the father of the twin seven-year-old girls, brought one of the children to Bronson Battle Creek hospital at 9:49 p.m. Dec. 16 for treatment.
Doctors notified police after finding severe bruising and swelling to both sides of the girl’s face as well as bruises on her arms, front and back of her torso and a bloody lower lip.
The girl said her stepmother was angry because the child was not doing her chores and grabbed her by the hair and banged her head against the walls and floor. The girl said the woman also twisted her arm behind her back and told the girl she would break it.
Swartout told police she has seizures and does not recall the incident. She said she remembers being angry at the girl about homework and chores but blacked out and remembers nothing until she was on the bathroom floor and her husband was over her.
Callahan told police his wife has a long history of seizures and doctors have been unable to diagnose the cause. She is not able to have a driver’s license because of the condition.
However the girl said her stepmother was talking to her when the reported assault first began and then had a seizure and began to throw up.
Callahan came home from work and both he and Swarthout took the girl to the hospital.
Images of Child Abuse, Animal Abuse seized
JACKSON COUNTY, OR – A Jackson County man was arrested Friday on felony charges after police said they found hundreds of child pornography images and dozens of images of animals being sexually abused.
Gary Lee Watts, 61, was arrested at his home in the 7300 block of Upper Applegate Road early Friday morning, capping off an investigation going back more than a year, according to a press release issued by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force investigators said they found more than 700 images of child pornography on equipment seized from Watts’ home, according to the sheriff’s office, plus more than 50 images of animal sexual abuse.
The sheriff’s office started its investigation in September of last year, after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children® alerted local police of child pornography being downloaded at the home.
The sheriff’s office had assistance from Oregon State Police, Medford police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the case.
The sheriff’s office arrested Watts on 20 felony counts of first-degree encouraging child sexual abuse and 10 misdemeanor counts of encouraging sexual assault of an animal. Watts was held in the Jackson County Jail Friday on $275,000 bail, records show.
Court records show no prior criminal history for Watts.
This was posted on our website December 6, 2018. Chicago Lakeshore Hospital’s 60-bed children’s unit is Uptown. The hospital faces state and federal scrutiny after a rise in complaints alleging sexual and physical abuse by hospital employees and patients.
A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Cook County public guardian alleged that children as young as 7 were sexually abused, while others were injected with sedatives to control them and physically attacked, at a Chicago psychiatric hospital. Child welfare officials, meanwhile, allegedly worked with the hospital to cover up the abuse.
Charles Golbert, the Cook County public guardian, filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven children who are in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and who had been involuntarily admitted to Chicago Lakeshore Hospital in 2017 and 2018.
“These kids are entitled to justice for what happened to them at this facility,” Golbert said in an interview Wednesday. “DCFS knew perfectly well about all of the problems and dangers at this hospital.”
He added that he hoped the lawsuit sent a strong message to DCFS: “You cannot keep kids at placements once you know the placement is dangerous.”
ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune in separate investigations last year revealed numerous allegations of sexual abuse, assault and patient safety violations at the hospital. In response, state lawmakers and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which monitors DCFS as part of a federal consent decree, demanded the agency take action.
DCFS’ acting inspector general had previously raised concerns with the agency about the safety of children at Lakeshore. The ACLU took DCFS to federal court following the news reports, and late last year the agency agreed to stop sending its children to the hospital and removed those who remained there.
“We support this effort to hold responsible those who have done harm to children in the care of DCFS,” the ACLU’s Heidi Dalenberg said on Wednesday.
Chicago Lakeshore Hospital CEO Patricia McClure-Chessier said in a statement that officials “have always placed the health and safety of the children we treat as our top priority.” She said it was “tragic” that Golbert chose to “malign health care providers instead of addressing the root of this statewide crisis: a lack of state funding which prevents children from getting appropriate care at the right time and in the right place.”
She said she will “vigorously defend Chicago Lakeshore Hospital using facts rather than the egregious distortion that has been portrayed before the press.”
DCFS takes allegations of abuse seriously and has not allowed children to be placed at Lakeshore this year, spokesman Jassen Strokosch said in a statement. He said the agency, which has a new acting director, has hired more than 300 employees since April and has “begun to make dramatic improvements to overcome the challenges that have plagued the department for decades.”
“DCFS is committed to protecting the children of Illinois and providing the best possible services to the children in our care,” Strokosch said.
The lawsuit detailed abuse at the hands of employees and other patients, alleging children found themselves at a “hospital of horrors” instead of a safe environment where they could focus on their treatment.
One 14-year-old girl, according to the lawsuit, was allegedly sexually assaulted multiple times by a nurse who showed her pornographic videos as well as allowed her and others to fill out their own medical paperwork and to use the nurse’s vaping device. The girl and others reportedly escaped from the hospital and were missing for several months.
That nurse, according to the lawsuit, was charged this year with attempted murder in an incident involving her housemate. Her nursing license was revoked.
The lawsuit also claims a male hospital employee entered the room of a 12-year-old girl and forced her hand on his genitals and grabbed her breasts. A 7-year-old boy was allegedly forced to perform oral sex on his older roomate, who had previously physically abused him. And the hospital didn’t put precautions in place to protect an 8-year-old girl who also was sexually assaulted by a peer, the lawsuit alleges, despite the hospital knowing the boy had previously sexually assaulted his roommate.
The lawsuit, which seeks monetary compensation for the children, alleges that DCFS relied so heavily on Lakeshore because it “had worn out its welcome” at other psychiatric hospitals in the Chicago area. Psychiatric hospitals were reluctant to admit DCFS children because state budgetary constraints delayed payments to them, and DCFS routinely kept children in psychiatric hospitals after they had been medically cleared for discharge, according to the lawsuit.
In June 2018, ProPublica Illinois first reported on children trapped in psychiatric hospitals because DCFS struggled to find them appropriate placements. Golbert filed a lawsuit last December on behalf of the hundreds of children who remained in psychiatric hospitals after being cleared for release. That lawsuit is pending. DCFS said at the time that finding appropriate placement for children is challenging and that the agency was working to reduce the need for hospitalization and build up additional places for children.
DCFS’ desperation for a psychiatric hospital that would accept its children led agency officials and Lakeshore to engage in “concerted efforts to cover-up or discredit the allegations of abuse,” according to the lawsuit, which also alleged the hospital failed to repair broken video cameras and destroyed existing video in an attempt to hide evidence that could corroborate the allegations.
The lawsuit names Lakeshore, its owner Signature Healthcare Services, former hospital CEO David Fletcher-Janzen, a number of hospital employees who worked there at the time of the allegations and several DCFS officials, including former department chief Beverly “B.J.” Walker.
Last December, the hospital was days away from losing federal funding. Officials said they would terminate Lakeshore’s Medicare agreement because the hospital could not ensure its patients were free from sexual and physical abuse and it did not have sufficient policies to investigate the allegations.
One year later, the hospital finds itself in a similar position. Federal officials notified Lakeshore that they plan to terminate its Medicare agreement on Monday, the latest deadline in a long list of dates that have been extended. The hospital has filed temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions in federal court to fight the termination. Lakeshore officials have said losing the federal funding could force the hospital to shut down.
An inspection last month by the Illinois Department of Public Health on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found deficiencies that “immediately jeopardize the health and safety of its patients,” federal officials wrote in a letter to the hospital.
In her statement, McClure-Chessier said Chicago Lakeshore Hospital “has always cooperated with regulators in a transparent way and we work diligently to correct any problems that arise while treating the most difficult and troubled populations — populations other hospitals cannot or will not treat because of acuity or inadequate reimbursement.”
North Texas hotels ignore sex trafficking,
exploitation of children, lawsuit says
Three national hotel chains are accused of being complicit in sex trafficking at hotels across the country including various ones in North Texas, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Dallas this week.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a woman identified as F.M. who says she was sexually exploited at North Texas hotels beginning when she was 4 years old. The woman is now in her 20s and lives in Tarrant County.
The lawsuit, filed by Houston-based Lanier Law Firm on Monday, includes Best Western, Hyatt and Red Lion hotels, and says that the companies ignored criminal activity occurring on their property and failed to protect victims of sex trafficking from exploitation.
“The hotel industry plays a crucial role in the sex trade,” said Lanier Law Firm founder Mark Lanier in a statement released Wednesday. “For too long, the industry has profited by looking the other way when sex trafficking has been happening right in front of them. We’re filing this lawsuit to get some justice for victims and to let these businesses know that their lack of action is unacceptable.”
In a statement Wednesday, BWH Hotel Group said, “Best Western International, Inc. condemns human trafficking. It is a despicable crime and the criminals who intentionally inflict this suffering on their victims should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Best Western supports the industry’s efforts to raise awareness and fight against this inhumane and horrific crime.
“While Best Western branded hotels are independently owned and operated, we require that each member hotel complies with all laws and treats all hotel guests consistent with our core values of integrity, honesty, and respect for others’ dignity,” the statement continued. “We provide information and training resources to member hotels on this serious issue such that hotels can educate their staff about how to recognize and report instances of trafficking.”
Officials at Red Lion and Hyatt could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
The suit specifically names Best Western Plus DFW Airport Suites, Hyatt House Dallas/Frisco, Best Western Irving Inn & Suites at DFW Airport, and the America’s Best Value Inn Irving/Dallas.
Sex trafficking generates an estimated $99 billion each year, making it the second-largest illicit crime industry behind the sale of illegal drugs, according to the lawsuit. More than 60 percent of sex trafficking offenses occur in hotels, while eight out of 10 arrests for human trafficking occur in or around hotels, the lawsuit says.
VICTIM SAYS SHE WAS DRUGGED AND ASSAULTED FOR YEARS
In the lawsuit, F.M. gave this account of being exploited:
Her father, to sustain his drug addiction, sold her to traffickers in Irving for sex when she was 4.
She was given unidentified pills by her trafficker on average to five to 10 times each day, according to the lawsuit. Her traffickers would tie her and other children up and place them blindfolded in the back of a van.
When they arrived at a hotel, a hotel bellmen would be there to meet them and send them to assigned hotel rooms where buyers would be waiting for them, the lawsuit stated.
F.M. was bound, blindfolded and sent to rooms where “johns” were awaiting her and other children. She was then tied to a bed and sexually assaulted, according to the lawsuit.
From age 4 to 18, F.M. was trafficked to buyers for sex and abuse at the Best Western Plus DFW Airport Suites, the Best Western Irving Inn & Suites at DFW Airport in Irving and the Hyatt House Dallas/Frisco in Frisco, she said in the suit.
By the age of 20, F.M. was in the possession of her third trafficker and being trafficked at America’s Best Value Inn Irving/Dallas in Irving, the suit says.
She was advertised on Craigslist.com
At the age of 20, F.M. was hospitalized and could not work. Her trafficker punished her 2-year-old son by raping the child while F.M. watched, according to the lawsuit.
Her trafficker controlled her by making her dependent on methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.
A number of nationwide campaigns recognized trafficking in the hotel industry and several hotel companies took initiative to combat the problem, but the lawsuit says Best Western, Hyatt and Red Lion have repeatedly failed to thwart sexual exploitation at their hotels.
The lawsuit listed some indicators of sex trafficking at a hotel. They include:
An excess of condoms in rooms.
Individuals carrying large amounts of cash.
Renting two rooms next door to each other.
Declining room service for several hours.
Men traveling with multiple women who appear unrelated.
Guests checking in with little or no luggage.
Women known to be staying in rooms without leaving.
Hotel guests who prevent another individual from speaking for themselves.
The lawsuit listed more than 20 incidents of arrests and rescues of people and children in sex trafficking or exploitation cases at hotels operated by Red Lion, Hyatt and Best Western.
SHALER TOWNSHIP, PA – A Shaler Township mother is facing felony charges for allegedly abusing her child in “one of the most violent cases” Children’s Hospital doctors have seen.
Katie Easley is now facing charges alongside father Jamie Easley for the alleged abuse of their newborn daughter, who was admitted to UPMC Children’s Hospital with severe injuries in September.
According to police, the 4-week-old girl was taken to Children’s Hospital after her primary care doctor found multiple bruises on her face and abdomen.
The child’s mother allegedly told the doctor the little girl had not eaten in nearly two days.
At the hospital, doctors found the girl had skull fractures, subdural hemorrhages, 19 rib fractures and other fractures to her left arm and her legs. She was admitted in critical condition to the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
According to the criminal complaint, Jamie told investigators during a police interview that the baby’s older sibling pulled her off a bed. However, doctors said a fall from a bed would not cause the kind of injuries she had.
Police say Jamie later told them he grabbed the baby girl by the arm while she was crying, held her up, squeezed her and gave her “a quick shake.” Soon after, the baby stopped crying.
Now, police are charging Katie with a felony endangering the welfare of children. The criminal complaint accuses Katie of not taking her critically injured baby to the hospital until the 31-day-old newborn stopped eating all together.
It also says detectives later searched Katie’s phone history and allegedly found Google searches from earlier in the month including “bruising on baby” and “why isn’t my baby eating?”
Police say Children’s Hospital doctors said “given the age of the victim, it was one of the most violent cases of child abuse they have seen, bone in arm completely snapped in half, and the worst rib fractures they have seen.”
KDKA’s Meghan Schiller reports charges against Jamie still stand. Katie was released on non-monetary bond and is slated to go before the judge for her preliminary hearing on Dec. 19.