By Rachel Baldwin
WILLIAMSON - The Mingo County Investigative Team recently met with the public in the Mingo County Commission Courtroom, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the group and to enlighten those in attendance about the revamping that had taken place inside the organization, as well as their plans for the future.
The purpose of the group, according to Executive Director Beth Cook, is to serve the needs of any child who is believed to have been sexually abused, suffered serious physical or emotional abuse, or who has been exposed to domestic violence or other dangerous living conditions. Children who are referred to the agency are the subjects of child neglect or abuse investigations done by the CPS, law enforcement, criminal prosecution or a combination of these incidents.
The team is made up of several individuals that include Cook, Victim Advocate Medina Mahon, Administrative Assistant Brooke Honaker, Mingo Outreach Coordinator David Bell, Tug Valley Recovery Shelter Director Sherry Hatfield, Attendance Officer Tom Damron, CPS Supervisor Tonya Webb, CPS Supervisor Jeannie Curry, Social Services Supervisor Lisa Vinson, Child Protection Unit/West Virginia State Police Sgt. L.D. Hensley, troopers with the Williamson Detachment, Mingo County Sheriff James Smith and members of the sheriff’s department, Williamson Police Chief Barry Blair, Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Maynard and Liaison Robin Weiner.
The statistics show that in 2013, a total of 197 cases was investigated by the IMDT, with 109 of those being children who reside in Mingo County. Other services that were provided by the team included medical treatment and mental health services. Of these cases, 33 defendants were charged with crimes relating to the abuse or neglect of the Mingo children that received services through this agency, 15 of those were indicted by the grand jury, 10 entered guilty pleas to their charges, two are awaiting trial and one case was dismissed.
Statistics provided by Cook show that in 2013, 35 percent of the children treated fell between the ages of 0 to 6 years of age, 34 percent of them range from 7-12 years old and 31 percent were in the 13-18 age group. The range of crimes committed against these young victims include sexual assault, sexual abuse, child abuse resulting in injury, child neglect resulting in injury, child neglect resulting in death (five cases) and Internet solicitation and online crimes (nine cases).
“One of our primary functions is to support crimes against children within our communities, and we are happy to say we are marking the one-year anniversary of the reorganized team,” Cook said. “The IMDT is an investigative team for child abuse crimes. The team is made up of community professionals with responsibility for child protection and child safety.”
Cook said the Child Advocacy Center, which is now based out of Logan County, plans to open a Mingo site in the near future, and has been working on this project with the Mingo County Commission.
“The IMDT will continue its work,” Cook said. “Our new sheriff has joined our team, as well as the Williamson police chief, and we hope to expand membership to all municipal police departments.”
“The Child Advocacy Center has been working with the Logan Regional Medical Center to establish a special child sexual abuse clinic to serve the children of Logan and Mingo counties. If all goes as planned, we hope to be up and running by March of this year,” Cook said.
For more information on the services provided by the IMDT, call 304-792-6261.