PAMELA SCOTT JOHNSON Staff Writer
April 18, 2013
RED JACKET - After receiving a call on April 15th reporting a possible child neglect situation at a home located on Mitchell Branch Road in Red Jacket, West Virginia State Police (WVSP) Trooper D.L. Contos and Child Protective Services (CPS) workers from the WV Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) responding to the scene were appalled and heart broken when they observed multiple injuries on the faces and bodies of two young sisters, ages 2 and 3, allegedly at the hand of their own mother.
The children were in the custody of Qiana Nicole Harmon, 32, who told law enforcement that she was babysitting for the mother, and said she had the sisters in her care for the past four days (since April 11) and further stated they were bruised and beaten when she got them, but that she had not sought medical care. Harmon, the mother of five children of her own, told the trooper the name and address of the injured children’s mother and said they needed to speak with her about the situation.
“Both little girls had severe bruising and lacerations to each of their faces,” said Trooper Contos. “It was horrible to see what they had gone through. After transporting them to the Williamson Memorial Hospital for treatment and assessment, I was informed that the 2 year-old had suffered a broken forearm which had not been treated. It had been broken for 4 days without receiving any medical care.”
“This case was heartbreaking for everyone who seen the extent of the injuries of these little girls,” stated the trooper. “Nothing rips your heart out like seeing a defenseless child that has been beaten at the hands of the person who is supposed to protect and love them the most.”
Jennifer Rose Chafin, 20, of West 4th Avenue in Williamson, the mother of the young girls, has been arrested on four felony counts; two each of child abuse resulting in injury and child neglect resulting in risk of injury. The defendant, who is 8 months pregnant, allegedly denied the charges and relayed to the officer that her children had “hurt one another”, and said that was what caused the cuts and bruises, and further stated that it was “normal” for them to hurt one another. Upon questioning, the eldest child told Trooper Contos that her “mommy had hurt her and her little sister”.
Harmon (the babysitter) was arrested by Trooper Contos on two counts of child neglect resulting in risk of injury due to the fact that she never attempted to obtain medical attention for the children during the four days they were in her care or reported it to authorities. Also taken into custody was Harmon’s boyfriend, Joshua Joe Friend, 26, of Mitchell Branch, who was said to be residing with Harmon during the four days the injured juveniles were in their home. He faces the same identical charges as Harmon. James Carl Mitchell, 20, of North Matewan, who lives with Chafin but is not the father of her unborn child, was arrested on charges of two counts of child neglect causing risk of injury.
“This investigation is far from over and there are further charges pending,” stated Contos. “This is just the beginning.”
The four defendants were arraigned in Magistrate Court on Wednesday before Magistrate Dee Sidebottom. Chafin was remanded to the custody of the Southwestern Regional Jail on a $40,000 full-cash bond, while the remaining three were each transported to jail on a $20,000 full-cash bond. They will be back in court in the near future for their preliminary hearings.
The children are in the custody of CPS officials and their injuries are healing, according to the latest reports. The Daily News was told that the workers have filed a petition to keep custody of the juveniles and to exercise the right to place Chafin’s newborn child in foster care as well, following its birth.
“The physical scars and injuries will heal a lot faster than these girls will mentally,” remarked the trooper. “It’s going to be an uphill battle for these little ones but with the proper supervision, guidance and a lot of love, I feel confident they stand a very good chance at living a normal life. I hope I’m right.”