Cameron County Child Abuse Unit works to aid those in need
Cameron County, TX – Often, the person who sexually abuses a child is someone the child knows or trusts.
When Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Rodriguez first started working for the Child Abuse Unit, he was surprised to find that many times, the sexual abuse is happening quietly.
“I always felt that sexual assaults were something loud and vicious, but a lot of what we see is a silent horror,” Rodriguez said. “It’s quietly an uncle (or another family member) molesting a child.”
Right now, the CameronCountyDA’s Office is working on 50 cases pertaining to child abuse, but more are always coming in.
Not every incident that is reported makes it to court or even the Child Abuse Unit’s desk. Investigators may determine that there is not sufficient evidence for a case, or if the case does reach the unit, witnesses may drop the charges or change what they say, said Brandy Bailey, supervisor of the child abuse unit.
“We’ve had quite a few cases where the mothers or grandmothers will say that it didn’t happen. That’s why it’s so important we all have that relationship with the therapists and professionals,” Bailey said.
Law enforcement helps, too, with the amount of evidence and statements it is able to provide for a case, Rodriguez said.
Gabriela Cruz, the Child Abuse Unit’s paralegal, helps keep the unit running, too, said Yvette Vela, public information officer for the DA’s Office.
PEABODY, MA – A Peabody father charged with grabbing his 11-year-old daughter by the throat and hitting her with a belt after learning she had the Snapchat app on her phone will remain in custody until trial, a Peabody District Court judge ruled on Friday.
Judge James Barretto made the ruling following a hearing where Sean Nguyen’s sister, Michelle Nguyen, testified that she was misquoted in a police report about the June 17 incident. Michelle Nguyen told the judge Friday that she never saw her brother hitting the child with a belt, despite what it says in a Peabody police report.
Barretto was not convinced, saying he did not find her testimony on Friday to be credible.
Sean Nguyen, 31, of 2 Aborn St., Peabody, has pleaded not guilty to strangulation and assault and battery on a child causing injury.
The incident occurred late Saturday night, while Sean Nguyen’s daughter was visiting him for the weekend. He learned that the girl had installed the Snapchat application on the phone, and wanted to see if there were any inappropriate photos.
Michelle Nguyen, who was called as a defense witness Friday, testified that she was downstairs in her own apartment when she heard yelling and screaming, and went upstairs, where she found her brother and his daughter in the girl’s room.
“I want the phone,” he said. “I want to see the pictures.”
“Chino, you need to chill,” she said she told her brother. “That’s when I grabbed her.”
Michelle Nguyen told the judge that she took the girl to her apartment downstairs, and then to her sister Vikki’s home in Salem.
From there, they took the girl to the Salem police station.
Prosecutor Deirdre Foley suggested that the actions of both of the defendant’s sisters that evening show that they were concerned for the girl’s well-being.
“Ms. Nguyen cared enough, and was concerned enough, to take her niece out of the home,” said Foley. “They were telling him, ‘Calm down, Chino.’ He was angry. It’s fair to infer that he was out of control.”
Foley said Sean Nguyen’s response to discovering the Snapchat app was “beyond anything that could ever be considered reasonable.”
‘Responsible and loving’
Sean Nguyen’s lawyer, Kevin Chapman, pointed to a Department of Children and Families report that says the girl told investigators it was the first time her father had acted aggressively toward her.
The girl’s mother also expressed surprise at the allegations, Chapman said, citing the DCF report. She told investigators that Sean Nguyen had “never been abusive” to either her or their child.
“He has always been responsible and loving toward this child,” Chapman said, citing the mother’s statement to DCF.
He noted that the girl’s mother, who has custody of the girl and lives in another county, has not sought a restraining order. The girl was also described in the DCF report as being “not afraid” of her father, he said.
Chapman argued that police have overcharged his client, noting that while Sean Nguyen is facing a charge of assault and battery on a child causing injury, police found no marks on the girl and there is no evidence she suffered any physical injury.
He told the judge he plans to seek dismissal of that count at the next hearing in the case on July 17.
Sean Nguyen was visibly upset during the hearing, and after the judge’s ruling ordering that he remain in custody, he tried to address the judge directly.
“As a father,” he began, before being cut off by his lawyer and the judge.
Chapman said outside court that he plans to appeal Barretto’s decision to a Superior Court judge.
Because of extensive coverage of the case on local television earlier in the week, Sean Nguyen has been held in an administrative segregation unit at the Middleton Jail, his attorney said.
Speaker shares battle with Child Abuse at Champion for Children conference
ABILENE, Texas – An Abilene Christian University graduate stood in front of a room full of child abuse prevention professionals and detailed her battle with child abuse as part of her keynote address Friday.
Jennifer Sterling said she suffered with abuse for as long as she can remember. She said some of her earliest memories are of her mother yelling at her, her older brother molesting her and her father’s sickness.
Sterling was the keynote speaker for the 18th annual Champion for Children conference, where child care, child prevention and law enforcement professionals come together to train and discuss solutions for child abuse in the Big Country.
Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald was among many city leaders present at the luncheon. He said there were 462 child abuse cases in 2016 in Taylor County. Taylor County Sheriff Detective John Graham said that number is high because of the number of cases being reported, not because of an increase in children being abused.
One of the biggest concerns for Sterling, who is a social worker in Fort Worth, is children who end up in situations like hers.
She said although a number of reports were filed on her behalf, she had denied all abuse when asked. Statistically Sterling said one in 10 children share their outcries.
“I always felt so completely ashamed of it and so responsible for it, I never told anyone,” Sterling said.
When Sterling was 17, her best friend’s parents took her in and she was able to break through her situation. Since then, she graduated from ACU with a graduate degree, and she and her husband have now been certified to become foster parents themselves.
Florida Couple Charged With 700 Counts Of
Child Abuse Against 11 Children
FLORENCE, AL – A Florida couple was charged Wednesday with 700 counts of child abuse, sexual abuse and other crimes against 11 children they adopted or fostered for seven years while living in Alabama.
Florence Police detective Sgt. Brad Holmes told local media that 47-year-old Daniel W. Spurgeon faces 388 counts. His 52-year-old wife, Jenise Spurgeon, faces 312 counts.
Both are jailed in Fort Myers, Florida, where they have pleaded not guilty to child abuse charges. Jenise Spurgeon was arrested Wednesday on the Alabama warrants during a court hearing in Florida. Holmes said Daniel Spurgeon would be arrested on the Alabama warrants if he posts bail in Florida.
It’s unclear if either has a lawyer.
Holmes said police seek to have both of them returned to Alabama.
Florence police have been investigating since they were contacted last summer about crimes the couple committed in Cape Coral, Florida.
“Their investigation led detectives to believe that abuse had occurred in Alabama while the couple lives in the Florence area,” Holmes said.
He said suspected victims ranged in age from toddlers to teenagers. The couple moved to Florida in 2015. Police in Cape Coral began investigating them after they responded to a call regarding two intoxicated teenagers in summer 2016.
Daniel Spurgeon is charged with 115 counts of first-degree sex abuse, 122 counts of child abuse, four counts of first-degree sodomy, four counts of sexual torture, three counts of domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation, six counts of first-degree rape, 115 counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes, six counts of incest and 11 counts of first-degree human trafficking 2 counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12.
Jenise Spurgeon is charged with 100 counts of child abuse, one count of domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation, 11 counts of first-degree human trafficking, 100 counts of endangering the welfare of a child and 100 counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes.
Holmes said Florence police have conducted extensive interviews, resulting in thousands of pages of documentation.
“We were very cautious not to rush to judgment, to be extremely thorough,” he said.