Adventures of Virginia Doyle, Social Worker: Stella's Story
You might say that it all began with a phone call placed by a neighbor for an eight year old rape victim, but that really isn't the catalyst for the resulting chain of events. Long before that call came into the 911 operator at the police station changing six lives forever, there were years of parental neglect, abandonment and, the oldest child was heavily laden with the parental care of her siblings. These factors eventually led to the events that follow. But then, I'm better at putting the pieces of the story together after the fact. My name is Virginia Doyle, I am a Child Protective Services Investigator, and this story is about Stella. This story is real, but all the names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.
My involvement with Stella, began the evening of the Fourth of July when a 911 Operator in Glendale received an emergency call, "Hello, my name is Mrs. O'Grady. Mr. O'Grady and I were watching the television firework display from New York, when we heard a banging on the side door. Mr. O'Grady went to see what was going on. When he turned on the lights, he saw a little girl with a bloody lip outside. She begged for help so he let her inside. I got an ice pack for her face. She says her name is Stella. Stella told us her uncle, our neighbor Steve Smooth, hit and raped her."
The 911 Operator asked, "May I speak with Stella?" Mrs. O'Grady handed Stella the phone.
"Hello, my name is Stella Johnson."
The 911 Operator asked, " Hello Stella, what can you tell me about yourself?"
Stella said, "I am eight years old and I am worried about my brothers and sisters still at my aunt's home."
911 Operator asked, "Where are your parents?"
Stella replied, "I do not know where my mother is, I do not have a father."
"Okay Stella, can you tell me what happened this evening?"
Stella sobbed, "MyUncle Steve told me to come upstairs to help him make the bed. He shut the door, he hit me, he tossed me on the bed, tore off my pants, I fought back and he slapped me. He stuck his thing inside me. I yelled for him to stop but he wouldn't."
911 Operator asked, "Did you tell anyone there?"
"I told my Aunt Syrian but she wouldn't believe me. She called me a liar!" Stella paused, took a deep breath, then began sobbing.
"Stella, are you hurt?" asked the operator.
"No, I think I'm okay now."
"Stella, you say there are children still in your aunt's home?"
"Who are they?"
"Well, my brothers: Seth, Stevie, Stewie and my sisters: Sarah, and baby, Susie. I'm scared, I don't want to go back there!"
The 911 Operator responded, "Stella, I have requested that the police come to where you are. Do you feel safe at the O'Grady home?"
"Okay, may I speak with Mrs. O'Grady again."
"Okay." Stella handed the phone to Mrs. O'Grady.
Mrs. O'Grady said, "Hello."
911 Operator asked, "Is it okay with you, if Stella stays in you home for awhile? The police have been notified and are on the way."
"Yes we can keep Stella here while we wait for the police." Mrs. O'Grady answered.
The 911 operator instructed, "Mrs. O'Grady, please do not wash Stella. She is carrying forensic evidence the police may need."
Mrs. O'Grady stated, "I understand. We'll go watch the fireworks on the television while we wait. Is it okay if I give her some food?"
911 Operator said, "Yes, that would be very kind of you if she is hungry. You will be contacted by police officers shortly."
At the exact moment Mrs. O'Grady's call reached the 911 Operator to report alleged child abuse, a page was sent to two enforcement agencies: Crimes Against Children and Child Protective Services. Both agencies stand ready to investigate allegations of child abuse within the home 24/7 and have on-call detectives and investigators ready to respond to emergency child abuse complaints. These agencies provide a team effort when it comes to child abuse within the home. The Law Enforcement Detective and Child Protective Services Investigator work together to determine if a criminal act inside the home occurred and how to proceed.
In Stella's case, Crimes Against Children Law Enforcement assigned seasoned Detective Bob Winston. Detective Winston was sitting at his desk in the Crimes Against Children Office at 8:05 p.m. when he was paged. Winston gathered a team of officers and headed to the alleged scene of the crime. They arrived at the home within 10 minutes of receiving the page, or approximately 8:15 p.m., and began to secure the area.
At the very same time, Child Protective Services [C.P.S.] assigned seasoned Investigator Virginia Doyle to investigate Stella's case. Virginia received page at 8:05 p.m. just as her families Fabulous 4th and her Aunt Lorraine's 60th Birthday Celebration was ending.
Virginia called into the office. "Doyle here. What's the address? Okay, I'm heading in from the desert, I'll be there in approximately 25 to 30 minutes depending on traffic." Virginia hugged her family members, boarded her pickup, and headed into town.
Police Secure the Scene
Law Enforcement Officers merged upon the home quietly and gathered outside to await instructions. The officers had the floor plans of the residence on his computer and printed it out before heading out. Winston had reviewed the plan prior to arriving on scene. This residence was a huge two story home with a basement. Detective Winston had made a plan of action. He patiently waited until everyone present was quiet then began speaking, "Gentlemen I want two squad cars to block the street at each corner to secure the area. Make it happen! Note, we are awaiting the Crime Scene Unit [C.S.U.] from the Crime Lab and investigator from C.P.S. so let those workers pass. Now, for the rest, I want the front, side and back of the home secured. You three head down the west side and, you three head down the east side of the home. Post two officers at each side and one shall proceed to the back of the home from each side to secure the building. You four remain out front. Two secure each side of the building in the front and two respond if help is needed."
"Yes sir." all the officers responded in unison and they proceeded to their positions.
Detective Winston formed the remaining officers into teams of four and assigned a leader to each team. Winston addressed the rest of the team, "Remember lads, the first order of business is to locate and secure the children in the home. Then, locate and subdue the alleged perp. [perpetrator]. Is everyone clear on what to do?" he asked. Everyone nodded. "Okay then, follow me." Winston proceeded to the front of the home and knocked on the door shouting, "This is the police! Open up!"
A young lad opened the door.
"May we come in?" Winston asked.
"Sure." the lad responded.
"Please step back to allow the police officers inside." Winston requested.
The lad opened but held onto the door allowing the officers access to the home.
Detective Winston asked the lad, "Where are the other children?"
The lad pointed to the left. Winston motioned to for four officers to move quickly and secure the children's safety. "Where are the adults?" Winston asked.
"I don't know." the lad replied.
Team leader Todd emerged into the hallway and reported to Winston, "The children are currently in the living room. There is a den where the children would be safe the next room over. It has a television, a small window and, one door entrance."
Detective Winston responded, "Great work Officer Todd! Remove the children at once from the wide open living room and put them into the den. Then, station an officer outside the door and have another officer stand guard inside the den with them so they will feel secure. Be sure to close the door to prevent any further disruption to the children and tell them that they are safe."
"Yes sir." said Todd and he proceeded to his task.
Detective Winston made the front hall his command post and instructed the rest of the officers. Pointing at the other teams, "I want you to secure the rest of the first floor, you to secure the second floor, and you to secure the basement. I want one officer posted in the entry of each secured room. Get back to me here."
"Yes sir." The officers responded in unison. Officers dispersed throughout the home as instructed with their guns drawn. Team leaders returned quickly from the first and second floors of the home. Each officer with the same report, "No one there sir, officers posted and everything secure."
Detective Winston responded, "Good job! Now, get someone to remain on the staircase to keep the area secure. We have not found the adults yet. Send another team up to the second floor to check if there might be an attic where they might be hiding."
"Yes sir." The officers responded and proceeded to carry out their orders.
"Lieutenant Dave stay here at command and inform me when the officers come back from the basement. I need to chat a bit with the children. Find me after they come to report if I am not back by then."
"Yes sir." Lieutenant Dave responded and remained in the hallway next to the front door.
Detective Winston proceeded through the living room to the den. The stationed officer made way and Detective Winston entered the room. Winston quietly inquired, "Who is the oldest here?"
"I am." Seth stated.
Ah, this was the same lad who had opened the front door Winston mused. "Is it okay if I speak with you for a moment? You are not in any trouble."
"Okay." Seth responded.
"Let's go into the living room."
The lad willingly came out of the room and walked with Detective Winston into the living room.
Winston began, "What's your name young man?"
"How old are you?"
"I'm seven. What's happening? Why are you here in the house?"
"We are conducting an investigation. Can you help us?"
"Is this your home?"
"No, it belongs to my aunt."
"What is her name."
"Does anyone else live here?"
"My uncle, Steve."
"Seth, where your parents?"
"My mother is away on a trip and, I do not have a father."
"What is your mother's name?"
"Do you live with your aunt and uncle?"
"Can you tell me your home address?"
"Sure, I live at 4381 North Mildred Avenue, Apartment 3." Seth responded then asked again, "What is happening?"
Detective Winston answered, "Someone called in a crime and we are investigating it. Did you see or hear anything out of the ordinary this evening?"
"Okay then, thanks for your help. You are safe but you need to stay in the den with the others while we investigate. Can you do that for me?"
"Sure." Seth replied.
Detective Winston motioned for one of the officers stating, "Officer take Seth to the den with the rest of the children watching the firework show on television and come back."
"Yes sir." the officer responded.
"Can we have the food? We're hungry." Seth asked.
"Sure." Winston responded. "Officer, help Seth pick up the popcorn, cups, soda and take the items into the den please."
"Yes sir." the officer responded.
Detective Winston then proceeded back to the hallway command post and called into the Crimes Against Children Office.
"I need a squad car to go to 4381 North Mildred Avenue, Apartment 3 to see if there is any adult from the Johnson family there. Also, where is the ETA [estimated time of arrival] on the C.S.U.?"
Dispatch responded, "Crime lab's C.S.U. is on the way with an ETA of less than 10 minutes. We are sending an officer to that address now."
"Thank you. Please give the responding officer my number to call back a report."
Officers heading into the basement, walked down a long staircase and through a hallway with doors leading to many different rooms. Eventually they opened the door to a laundry room where an adult female was picking what appeared to be bedding. It appeared to be her intent to put the sheets into the wash.
"Stop this is the police! Put your hands in the air." Officer Duran yelled.
The woman jumped at the sound of his voice. She evidentially had not heard the officers opening the door behind her, she dropped what was in her hands and turned to face the officers.
"Put your hands in the air." commanded Officer Duran for the second time.
The woman turned away from the officers. While she began to yell at the officers, "Get out of my home! You have no right to be here! This is my home," she grabbed the bedding from the basket and raised it toward the washer. Officer Duran quickly moved and grabbed her hands forcing her to release the bedding which fell back into the basket.
Officer Duran quickly cuffed the woman stating, "You are being cuffed because you are under arrest for interfering in an investigation and refusing a direct order. You need to come upstairs with us. What is your name?" he asked."
"I am the home owner, Mrs. Syrian Smooth." she replied. "Get out of my home! You have no right to be here!"
Officer Duran informed, "Mrs. Smooth, we are conducting an investigation of an alleged crime. We have the authority to be here until our investigation is finished.
Officer Dominick read Mrs. Smooth her rights as she was escorted up the stairs by both officers.
Once in the hall, Syrian Smooth saw the leader and yelled at Detective Winston, "You get out of here! This is my home!"
Detective Winston replied, "Who are you?"
"I am the home owner, Mrs. Syrian Smooth."
"Well Syrian Smooth," Detective Winston responded. "Officer Duran is correct. We are investigating an alleged crime and are within our rights to remain in your home until we finish our investigation. You were very wrong to ignore an officers' request to raise your hands and stop when requested. Ignoring a direct order from an officer is a crime, and that is why you have been hand cuffed."
Winston turned to Officer Dominick. "Take Mrs. Smooth to the kitchen to await questioning."
Once Officer Dominick and Mrs. Smooth had left the area, Officer Duran reported to Detective Winston, "Wow, we were lucky! We stopped her just in time! She was attempting to place bedding into the washer." Winston stated, "Good job Duran! Officer Torres, go down to the laundry room and secure the bedding for the C.S.U."
"Yes sir." responded officer Torres.
Outside the home, officers were cautiously approaching the rear of the home from the west side and east side as ordered. Officers at the west side were the first to spot a man coming out the back door of the suspect's home.
"This is the police!" Officer Simpson announced.
Steve Smooth quickly glanced the officers direction, dropped the trash can he was carrying, and began to run the opposite direction. Officer Simpson announced the man fleeing on his talkie as he ran after him." The second officer stood guard over the trash can. At the same time Officer Smith who was heading around the east side of the home ran ahead and successfully subdued the man running toward him. "Halt, this is the police!"
Realizing he was surrounded, the man complied.
Officer Smith directed, "Stand still and put your hands in the air."
The man complied.
Once Officer Simpson joined them, Officer Smith told the man, "Kneel down and put your hands behind your head."
"I didn't do anything wrong!" Mr. Smooth yelled.
"Then, why were you running?" Officer Smith asked as Officer Simpson hand cuffed Steve Smooth.
No response from Mr. Smooth.
Officer Simpson read Mr. Smooth his rights.
Both officers walked Steve Smooth inside the back door of the home and into the hallway to Detective Winston. Other officers dispersed outside the home standing guard over the sides of the home, garage, and front as previously instructed.
"Who do we have here?" Detective Winston asked when they arrived at the hallway of the home.
"I am the home owner." Mr. Steve Smooth!" he responded, "Get out of my house!"
"Well, hello Mr. Smooth! We are investigating an alleged crime and are well within our rights to be inside your home. We were invited inside by one of the children."
Turning to the officers Detective Winston stated, "Take Mr. Smooth upstairs into the master bedroom to await questioning and remain with him."
"Yes sir." both officers responded in unison. They quietly escorted Mr. Smooth up the staircase.
Detective Winston ordered Officer Duran and the other two officers go outside to help tape off the home with crime scene tape now the home had been secured inside. Documenting that by 8:25 p.m. the home had been secured. "Lieutenant Dave stay here. Inform me when CSU techs and CPS investigator arrives. I need to go speak to the victim now the home is secure."
"Yes sir." Lieutenant Dave responded.
Detective Winston went next door to speak with the neighbors who were housing the alleged victim, Stella and knocked on the door. Mr. Grady came to the door.
Mr. O'Grady said, "Yes? Who is it?"
Detective Winston informed, "Hello! My name is Detective Winston. The home next door has been secured and everyone is safe. Is it okay for Stella to stay a bit longer?"
Mrs. Grady and Stella came to the door when they heard her name. Mrs. Grady saw the officer. "Is everything okay?" she asked.
Detective Winston assured her, "Yes you are safe, the home next door is secure."
Stella asked, "Is everyone okay?"
"Yes, your brothers and sisters are safe. Are you okay?"
"Yes." Stella responded.
"Can you keep Stella a bit longer?" the detective asked.
Mr. O'Grady responded, "We'll keep Stella as long as it takes, she isn't any trouble." Mrs. O'Grady nodded in agreement.
"Thanks for your help! A Child Protective Services Investigator should be arriving soon to speak with Stella." Detective Winston informed. Detective Winston said his goodbyes to the neighbors and walked back to the crime scene just in time to greet the C.S.U. team.
C.S.U. arrived at the home at exactly 8:30 p.m. to began collecting forensic evidence. Detective Winston greeted them outside. Detective Winston informed, "Mr. Smooth, the 'perp' is handcuffed and in the master bedroom on the second floor. The 'perp' was taking out a trash can when he noted the police and started to run. The can remains where he dropped it in the back of the home. Officer Bruce is out back guarding that can and it needed to be retrieved for probable evidence."
Winston continued, "There is a wash basket in the basement that needs review. The female home owner, Mrs. Smooth, wanted to wash the bedding and ignored an officers request stop and is handcuffed and sitting at the kitchen table. Take swabs of Mrs. Smooth for probable transfer evidence. The children are in the den and were not present during the alleged crime and do not need to be disturbed." Winston instructed.
"Yes sir!" the team responded in unison. Then, following Detective Winston's instructions, John, the forensic team leader, broke the technicians into three groups: Group one would be lead by George and head to the basement, Group two would be led by Henry will head outside to the back of the home, and group three would be led by John, the team leader, and head upstairs to the master bedroom. "Go now." John instructed.
Team three hustled up the stairs. When John, et al, entered the room, John turned toward Mr. Smooth and began to approach.
"Get out of here!" yelled Mr. Smooth. He stood as he spoke and stepped to pushed John away.
Officer Smith jumped between them and pushed Mr. Smooth back toward the bed. "Mr. Smooth, keep your hands to yourself or you will be charged with assault!" Officer Smith warned. "Sit back down now!" Officer Smith ordered.
John remained standing where he was until Mr. Smooth sat down and seemed to calm down.
John politely informed, "Mr. Smooth, we are a forensic Crime Scene Unit here to gather factual evidence of an alleged crime. Mr. Smooth, you are a suspect in this investigation and we need to collect evidence from you. Mr. Smooth, we will not hurt you."
Mr. Smooth appeared to pondered, then replied, "I did nothing wrong to be a suspect!" he stated.
Officer Smith piped up to offer assistance, "Mr. Smooth, if you do not cooperate now, they will just get a warrant and collect evidence later. It might be easier on you to do it now, especially if you are innocent."
Mr. Smooth replied, "Well okay then, go ahead I can't see any harm. I am innocent!"
John and other technicians proceeded to complete their records to identify the current condition of the room. They also recorded the condition of Mr. Smooth. They took exact measurements and made numerous notes on their records. With his permission they took pieces of hair, nail clippings, photos and swabs of Mr. Smooth. They also took photos showing the color, size and shapes of each scratch on Mr. Smooths' face, legs, and stomach. They noted, measured, and took photos of bites on his arms, face, and penis.
John noted a small oozing gash on his forehead and asked, "Mr. Smooth, how did you get this gash?"
"I don't know, perhaps in the scuffle outside?"
Judy, another technician found corresponding blood spatter on the lamp shade. She took a picture and swab for DNA verification. There was lots of clicking and flashing going on in the room. Records noted the stains on the carpet, bed, wall, broken lamp, lamp shade, and night stand.
Meanwhile, Henry's team assigned the outside of the home had proceeded to the back of the home. Once there they noted an officer standing guard over the trash can.
"Officer Bruce, my name is Henry. I am the leader of this C.S.U. team." Henry produced his official badge. "We are here to collect any evidence available from that trash can."
"Okay, proceed." replied Officer Bruce. He stepped back to allow the team to proceed.
While the others put down a tarp, Henry grabbed the can and dumped the contents onto the plastic tarp. They began sorting out the items. The team took photos and notes to document their findings in the can. They found a small child sized underwear that was torn and male clothing among food stuffs. C.S.U. bagged and tagged all the evidence, including the food stuffs.
Henry stated as they left, "Thanks Officer, we're done here." The team proceeded to the front of the home and placed their evidence securely in the truck then awaited further instructions.
Meanwhile, George's C.S.U. team assigned to the basement began to take pictures of the basement, the washer, and the wash basket. Then Bobbie placed a tarp down on the floor and Jeff dumped the wash basket onto the tarp so they could sort things out. The team took photos and notes to document their findings in the wash basket. They took pictures and swabs of the bedding they found. Each piece was carefully handled bagged and tagged. Once C.S.U. had secured the area, they proceeded up the stairs.
While Bobbie and Jeff headed out the door, George reported to Detective Winston. " Winston, we have lots of forensic evidence! It appears to be the bedding in question."
Detective Winston remarked, "Great job George! Hey, since you C.S.U. guys are finished down there, have most of the team go upstairs to help out John. Have a couple head into the kitchen to collect any transfer evidence Mrs. Smooth might have on her. She is sitting at the kitchen table in hand cuffs because she declined to follow a direct order and evidently attempted to obscure evidence. Then, sweep the rest of the home to see if there is additional evidence."
"Sure thing Winston!" George replied.
George went outside and carefully placed the remaining evidence into the truck, then walked over to team leader, Henry, who was leaning on the truck. " Winston wants us all back inside. He ordered us to collect evidence from Mrs. Smooth, sweep the rest of the home, see if there might be an attic, then check with John upstairs in the alleged crime scene, to see if he needs additional help to finish up."
"Okay." Henry responded then turned to his group, "You heard George, Winston has asked us to get back inside. He instructed us that once we finish our assignment, we need to head upstairs to help John. Alice, take Frank and check out the living room and the sitting room."
"Okay." Alice replied. She and Frank headed inside the home. Henry continued, "Pete, Sally and I will handle the rest of first floor. We need to do a forensic sweep, checking to see if there is any additional evidence on the sofa, TV, and possibly a laundry shoot. We are to check everything except for the den where the children are currently placed. Let's go!" Henry nodded to George as his group headed inside the home.
George turned to address his team. "Bobbie, head to the second floor with Pete. Check the other bedrooms and the bathroom. Pete see if there is a laundry shoot, and if there is an attic."
"Yes sir." Bobbie's group replied.
George then turned to face Margaret, "Margaret and Jeff, come with me. We will head to the kitchen to collect any evidence Mrs. Smooth might have."
"Okay." Margaret replied.
"Remember everyone," George ordered, "Once your assignment is finished, check back with John in the 'alleged crime scene to see if he needs help."
Everyone headed inside the home.
George, Margaret, and Jeff headed into the kitchen.
Margaret approached Mrs. Smooth and quietly asked, "Will you allow me to collect evidence Mrs. Smooth? It will not hurt you."
" Well, " Mrs. Smooth responded then stopped to ponder.
Officer Duran informed Mrs. Smooth, "If you do not cooperate now, they will get a warrant and collect the evidence downtown."
"Well then, I did nothing wrong so go ahead."
Margaret and Jeff began to take photos, fingerprints, nail clippings, and DNA swabs of her hands, clothing, shoes and face. It took the crime lab technicians about one and a half hours to collect the evidence in the home working together in groups.
While the Crime Lab crew was busy collecting evidence, Detective Winston walked outside the front door to catch a breath of fresh air.
Outside the home, he noted Officer Blair who was guarding the front and walked over to chat a bit.
"Hello." Winston remarked as he leaned against the fence with Officer Blair.
Officer Blair replied, "Hey Winston, how is everything going?" Detective Winston replied, "The Crime Lab team is almost finished. Officer Blair said, "Great! Hey, did you hear the domestic violence call down the block?"
Winston replied, "No, That call was probably picked up by Detective Elkhart I think he is on call tonight. Elkhart and I cross paths now and again when domestic violence includes children. He's a good man."
"Hey Winston, did you get to see any fireworks?"
"No, what about you."
"Well standing here, I saw fireworks from three directions. Too bad those kids missed the show!"
Winston nodded, "Yes, it's been a hard night for them!"
C.P.S. Investigator Arrives
Driving into town, Doyle was feeling guilty knowing it would take over twenty minutes to arrive at the crime scene. Doyle mused, she has always had the reputation of being 'Johnny on the Spot' She smiled thinking,
"It is never hard to locate a crime scene unless you arrive before law enforcement and because she lives in the center of town, she usually shocks them arriving about the same time." Of course Doyle consoled herself knowing that investigators from Child Protective Service [C.P.S. ] actually have one hour to arrive on a priority one; officers involved scene. But then again she thought, "Time is important to be prompt when someone needs help! And, she preferred getting the evidence fresh with the police instead of from them."
As expected, Doyle had no problems locating the alleged crime scene. The home was covered with bright yellow crime scene tape, flashing police cars up and down the block, Doyle noted the crime lab van parked in the drive. Once Doyle parked her pickup, she logged her arrival time as 8:35 p.m. at the scene. After all her fretting about the loss of time driving into town, she had arrived as expected 30 minutes after being paged.
Doyle noticed the officers standing at the front and side of the home. She also noted the crime scene van parked in front of the home. The officers also noted her arrival.
Winston remarked, "Well, I wondered who they'd send."
Officer Blair queried, "What do you mean?"
Detective Winston responded, "See over there, that woman in that old black truck?"
"She is Investigator Virginia Doyle and a spit fire that one." Winston replied.
"How's that?" Officer Blair inquired.
"Well judging by her looks one would never guess, but she always gets the perp." Winston responded.
Officer Blair remarked, "She looks slender in build and about five foot six inches tall."
Detective Winston nodded, "Yes, and with that long brown hair put up into a pony tail she looks as if she might be a novice. It's that unconscious deception that helps her lull the perps into thinking she will be easy to deceive." Winston chuckled.
Officer Blair stated, "I can see what you mean."
The officers proceeded to watch Investigator Doyle as she dropped down out of her pickup and headed towards them.
Investigator Doyle approached the Officers with a wave and smile. "Hello Winston!" Virginia stated.
"Hello Doyle." Detective Winston replied. He turned, "Officer Blair, this is Investigator Virginia Doyle."
"Nice to meet you Officer Blair."
"Just call me Steve."
"Okay Steve, call me Doyle." Doyle then turned to Detective Winston, "So, Bob, what happened here?"
Detective Winston parted from Officer Blair with a light pat on Blair's shoulder, then motioned for Investigator Doyle to walk with him while she was taking notes. As they walked toward the alleged crime scene, Winston spoke softly,
"An alleged rape was called in this evening."
Doyle asked, "Where is the alleged victim?"
Winston responded, "The alleged victim in this case is an eight year old female."
"Okay then Bob, where is the child?"
Detective Winston reported, "The alleged victim's name is Stella and she staying with the neighbors, over there." Winston pointed to the home East of the crime scene. Winston continued, "I checked in on her, and she feels safe there. The O'Grady family has no criminal history. She is in their living room watching television. Mr. and Mrs. O'Grady reported to 911 that she had a bloody lip when she arrived and they supplied an ice pack for her swollen face. They were instructed not to wash her, and they are awaiting your visit."
Doyle asked, "Okay, do we know where the child's parents are?" Detective Winston reported, "That remains unknown. I spoke with the older boy who identified himself as Seth Johnson, privately. Seth provided the parental home address as, 4381 North Mildred Avenue, Apartment 3. I sent a team of officers to the home to see if they could locate a parent or guardian. They called back a few moments ago to report that there was no one at that residence. The officers did chat with the landlord. The officers ran a check on the landlord, Mr. Jonas, who has a clean record. Their mother rents a so called 'apartment' in the back yard of Mr. Jonas' property. Mr. Jonas made apartments by placing Big Boy tough sheds together using bolts, then cutting out oblong holes for doors to go from one shed to the other in groups of four and six each. Each 'apartment' has a dirt floor. Mr. Jonas provides the broom so they can keep the home clean as well as stacked grocery crates for dressers and sleeping bags for beds. Mr. Jonas supplies electricity via cords that he runs from his home to each shed. Each family uses the main cord and attaches extension cords so they can have a light and fan. Mr. Jonas currently rents apartments to four families in his back yard. The officers on scene further reported that there was limited food stuffs and water in the family shed. Mr. Jonas stated that each family has kitchen access to cook their food at night, and a locked refrigerator out on the back porch to use. Each family can use of the shower once a week. For this apartment, Mr. Jonas charges the mother, Stephanie Johnson, $150.00 a month rent. Mr. Jonas insists it is safer for the families to live in his back yard than in the homeless shelter. He told the officers that he has a wait list to move into the sheds. Mr. Jonas is retired andstates that he watches out for the young children. He provides food if they get hungry, and charges mom when she comes back for his trouble. He states he has not had any trouble with her as a tenant. She usually pays him six months in advance. Mr. Jonas has no way to contact the mother, Stephanie Johnson, and does not know about any relative except Mrs. Smooth. He states that he hasn't seen Stephanie Johnson for over a month, but is not concerned because she comes and goes frequently leaving the children knowing he is there to watch over them. The officers spoke to the other 'apartment' dwellers and got the same story. No one had any other information to add."
Doyle sighed, "Another sad story for sure Bob." Doyle then inquired, "What about the alleged perp?"
Detective Winston states, "That would be the uncle, Steve Smooth. He is sitting upstairs in hand cuffs. We have already read him his rights. The crime lab forensic team is with him now. He was placed in handcuffs because he tried to run. He's willing to talk without an attorney. He doesn't think he did anything wrong."
"Okay, I'll start with the victim. Is it okay if I bring her back over here for questioning?."
"Sure, If that is what you want. The Uncle isn't going anywhere and the home is secure."
"Okay." Doyle walked slowly over to the neighbors home and knocked on the door. Mr. Grady opened the door.
"Hello there, my name is Virginia Doyle. I work for Child Protective Services. I have been assigned to investigate what happened here this evening. May I come in."
Mr. O'Grady gestured for her to enter and directed her to the living room. Doyle remarked, "I want to thank both of you," looking at Mr. and Mrs. O'Grady, "for all the help you provided this evening! Doyle turned her gaze to the small child. Who do we have here?" Doyle asked.
"My name is Stella" she responded.
Doyle stated, "Stella, I have been assigned to investigate what happened to you. The police are at the home next door. Is it okay with you if we go over there to get your things, and chat a little?" "Okay." Stella hugged Mrs. Grady. "Thank you!"
Doyle and Stella started walking slowly back to the Smooth home holding hands. As they walked, Doyle informed Stella, "Your brothers and sisters are safe. You are safe. Are you okay?"
"Yes, I think so." Stella replied.
They entered the home, Doyle motioned to the living room and once they were seated on the sectional, Doyle began the questions, "Stella, can you tell me what happened?"
Stella responded, "Yes."
Doyle stated, "Well let's start at the beginning of the evening, okay." Stella began, "Well, my aunt,Syrian, came over to our house and asked us to come to a 4th of July party at her home. Aunt Syrian knows that my mother is not home. We all talked it over, and everyone wanted to go with Aunt Syrian because she told us were going to have lots of food to eat and a sleep over."
Doyle asked, "How many of you are there?"
Stella replied, "There are six of us all together. I'm the oldest, then there is my brother Seth, sister Sarah, brother Stevie, brother Stewie, and baby, Susie."
Doyle asked, "So Stella, what happened when you got here?"
Stella continued, "Well, when we got here, Aunt Syrian went to the kitchen. Seth ran over to turn on the television." Stella looked up at Doyle's face, "You know, we don't have one at home."
"You don't have a television?" Doyle inquired.
"No, but we have a radio." Stella said.
Doyle asked, "What do you feel about that?"
Stella said, "It's okay I guess. Mom says we can't afford one."
Doyle stated, "Well everyone doesn't have a television Stella. Do you enjoy watching the TV here?"
"Yes." Stella stated.
"Can you continue with this evening?"
"Okay," Stella said. "Aunt Syrian came out of the kitchen appeared upset, she said she needed to get more food." Stella gulped then continued, "She asked us to go to the store and help her get the food." Stella looked up at Doyle, "Guess I should have gone too!" Stella started to sob.
Doyle handed her a Kleenex box from the table. Stella blew her nose and dabbed her eyes. "Can you continue?"
"Yes, my brothers and sisters love to go to store because Aunt Syrian usually buys treats when we go with her. I stayed here to do my homework."
"Doing homework on a holiday?" Doyle asked.
Stella confirmed, "Yeah, I don't get much time at home because I have to take care of the baby." She looked up again pensively.
Doyle soothingly stated, "I understand Stella, you are the responsible one aren't you?"
Doyle prodded her to continue, "What happened next?"
"Well, I went over to the table and got my books out. Look, they are still there." Stella pointed to the living room table. There was a large stack of books and a worn backpack.
"I see, so you had lots to do?"
"Yes, I was starting to read my history assignment when Uncle Steve disturbed me. He asked me to go upstairs with him to help him make the bed for Aunt Syrian. He said he wasn't good straightening out the sheets and it was the least I could do since they were letting us spend the night. So I put down my history book and followed him up stairs into their room." Stella paused and took a deep breath of air. "Uncle Steve told me to go in first. I walked in the room then Uncle Steve slammed the door shut. When I turned around because of the noise, he pushed me onto the bed. I tried to get up but he held me down. I yelled 'stop', I bit him, I scratched him, but he wouldn't let me up." Stella paused, and took another deep breath.
'I understand, this is very hard for you to talk about Stella. You are safe now. Can you continue?"
"Yes. Uncle Steve tore off my underwear and stuck his thing inside me! I screamed, but he just laughed!" Stella broke out in tears. "There, there, Stella." Doyle comforted. "You have been very brave. He can't hurt you now, you are safe. Can you tell me what happened next?"
Stella wiped away her tears with a new Kleenex and continued. "I kept screaming so loud that Uncle Steve started slapping my face. He slapped me so hard that his hand knocked the lamp off the table. He hit me again so hard that I fell off the bed. I thought I could get away and tried to crawl under the bed, but he jumped down on top of me and slapped me again. Look, my face is still red isn't it?"
"Yes it is. I understand Mrs. O'Grady gave you an ice pack to use to help reduce the swelling."
"Yes, Mrs. Grady was nice."
"Do you think you can you continue?"
Stella sighed, "Okay, I kept screaming, yelling for help. But no one came to help me. Then he stuck his thing in my mouth and kept laughing. He said he'd found a way to keep me quiet. I bit it hard, but he kept it inside my mouth so long I thought I would die!" Stella began to sob again.
Doyle handed her another Kleenex to wipe her eyes.
Stella looked up at Doyle and continued. "All of a sudden I heard my brothers and sisters laughing downstairs. I knew they were back from the store. Uncle Steve must have heard them too because he got up off me, pulled up his pants, and walked out the door. I could hear him walking down the stairs, talking and laughing with my brothers."
Doyle inquired, "So, what did you do?"
Stella stated, "I stayed there for a while waiting until it was quiet. Then, I snuck downstairs, and ran to Aunt Syrian in the kitchen. I told her what happened."
Doyle asked, "What did she say?"
Stella began sobbing again. "She said I was a liar! I just can't understand why she didn't believe me!"
Doyle asked, "So, what did you do then?"
"I picked up the phone and told her that I was going to call the police."
"What did she do?" Doyle asked.
"Aunt Syrian grabbed the phone away from me. She tried to hit me with it so I ran out the door."
"What happened next?"
"I ran to the neighbors house. They had a light on. I didn't know them, but when I told them what Uncle Steve did, they believed me and let me use their phone."
Doyle hugged Stella saying, "You have been a very brave young lady, Stella!"
"Is there anything else you want me to know about this evening?" "No, but where are my brothers and sisters? Are they okay? What is going to happen to us?"
Doyle responded, "We need to take you to a doctor to have you checked out. I need to talk to a few more people. Why don't you collect your things together." Doyle motioned to the female officer standing by. "Stella, this is Officer Jean, she will take you into the spare room over there so you can watch the fireworks on television. I will get back with you as soon as I can. Is that okay?"
Stella nodded. Jean began helping Stella pick up her textbooks and Doyle left the room andwalked into the hallway whereDetectiveWinston was standing.
Winston asked, "Well, what do you want us to do Virginia?"
Doyle responded, "Well Bob, I have to question the aunt and uncle before I can leave with Stella. Have you ordered a rape kit?"
"Yes, it will be ready at 'Child's Help' when you get her there." "Thanks! Have you learned anything else about the child's parents?" Winston responded, "We've checked the local records and there is no name on the birth certificate under father. The mother's name is listed as Stephanie Johnson. It is her maiden name, she was not married. According to our records, sheworks the streets and has been arrested many times for prostitution. We haven't been successful locating her. She has been missing for a least one month so who knows where she went."
"We'll then," Doyle stated, "I will act for the court and take temporary custody of all the children in the family. I'll call in to get placements for the children and fill out the paperwork."
Detective Winston gave her a list with the children's names and ages.
"Thanks Bob, I believe every child listed is in imminent risk."
Winston nodded in agreement, "I agree. You know, when we arrived, the aunt was trying to put the soiled sheets into the washer before we could get them and someone had tossed a child's ripped under pants and male clothing in the trash can that Uncle Steve was attempting to toss."
"Great job Bob!" Doyle responded. "What about the Crime Lab?" Winston reported, "The Crime Lab finished their evidence collection in the home and they have gone back to the office to process the evidence. They have made an initial report. That report indicates that there is lots of factual evidence to confirm the allegation of rape. We were sure lucky Stella called us quick enough to collect that evidence!"
"I concur! Doyle stated.
Winston directed, "You'll find Steve Smooth handcuffed upstairs, his rights have been read to him and he is not only willing, but wants to talk with you. Mr. Smooth insists that he did nothing wrong."
Doyle sighs, "How unfortunate, it's a sad story unfolding here Bob. I'll go question Steve Smooth. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say for himself" Doyle proceeded up the staircase to the master bedroom to meet with the alleged 'perp'.
As Doyle entered the room, she noted that Steve Smooth was securely cuffed. There were two officers standing guard nearby. Mr. Smooth is tall, medium muscular build, clean cut, and nothing about him appears odd or out of the ordinary. She thought, if he wanted he could easily snap a woman her size like a twig. A small child like Stella didn't have a chance in a struggle with him. The master bedroom reflected the recent struggle with a broken lamp, scattered glass, a bed stand laying on the side, the top mattress tossed sidewise on the floor without sheets, and clean sheets sitting on the dresser.
Doyle introduced herself, "Hello, my name is Virginia Doyle, I have been assigned to investigate the events that occurred this evening." Doyle addressed the officers first taking down their name and badge numbers. Doyle looked toward Mr. Smooth. "I was informed that the Officers read your rights before I came into the room. Is this true and do you understand your rights as stated?"
Steve Smooth nodded then responded, "Well, it's about time you showed up! I've been sitting here for a long time!"
Doyle did not respond but continued to question, "What do you do for a living Mr. Smooth?"
"I am a long distance truck driver. I arrived back home today from a four day run."
Doyle responded, "Okay, can you tell me what happened and start at the beginning of the evening?"
Mr. Smooth nodded and began, "Well, when my wife and Stephanie's other children were at the store, my niece, Stella, came onto me."
Doyle asked, "What do you mean?"
Uncle Steve retorted, "What do you mean, are you stupid? I said, SHE came onto me!"
Doyle asked again, "I'm sorry, I really don't understand what you mean. Can you tell me exactly what happened this evening and start at the beginning when the children arrived at your home?"
Uncle Steve glared at Doyle, then responded, "My wife went over to fetch Stephanie's children before dark. When she got back with the kids, she decided that she needed to go to the store to get more food. I was tired, because like I said, I just got off shift. I worked hard unloading and reloading that truck and I didn't want to go for a drive again. I handed my wife some money and came upstairs to take a nap before dinner. I thought my wife had taken all the children with her to the store. But, no sooner did I lay on the bed to sleep, then that little devil, Stella, came up and started rubbing on me. I was surprised that she had stayed behind. Syrian usually buys treats for all of them at the store so I give her a little extra cash. I pushed Stella away, but she kept rubbing on me, she wouldn't leave me alone."
Doyle questioned, "Where was she rubbing you?"
"On my penis!" Mr. Smooth responded.
Doyle questioned again, "You're talking about the eight year old child, Stella?"
Uncle Steve raised his voice, "Yes! Stella may be eight years old, but she doesn't act like she is eight. I think Stephanie sells Stella's favors for cash. Stella's mother is a street walker you know. I think Stephanie is teaching Stella the tricks of the trade. She's a real bitch that one!"
Doyle inquired, "Who are you talking about?"
Uncle Steve responded, "Stephanie!"
Doyle prodded, "Oh, so you do not like Stella's mother?"
"You can say that!" Steve stated.
"Well, what happened next?" Doyle asked.
Steve Smooth continued, "I gave Stella what she wanted of course. Is that what you mean? I fucked her!"
Doyle replied, "Yes, I always want to hear the truth. So you are telling me that you had sex with an eight year old child named Stella this evening, a child who is your niece by marriage?"
"YES." Mr. Smooth stated firmly.
"Okay, Mr. Smooth, may I tell you some legal truth?"
Steve Smooth nodded.
Doyle then informed, "According to the law, an eight year old child does not have the capacity to provide informed consent. Legally, what you did with your niece tonight constitutes statutory rape regardless of who started it. I have your testimony in front of two witnesses that you had sex with Stella, your eight year old niece this evening. At this time I am asking the Officers to take you to jail. You will remain in jail until you stand trial for your crime." Doyle motioned to the officers to take Mr. Smooth into custody.
Steve Smooth lunged at Doyle. "You bitch, I did nothing wrong, I'm innocent!" Steve yelled. The officers grabbed Uncle Steve and escorted him out of the room and down the staircase. Steve continued jerk trying to get away all the way down the stairs. "She asked for it! Let me go! I'm innocent!" he yelled.
Mr. Smooth came face-to-face with Detective Winston at the end of the staircase. Winston stated, "Pipe down Mr. Smooth." Then he motioned for the officers. "Take Mr. Steve Smooth out to the squad car and head onto jail. They have nice accommodations ready for him." Winston called the jail in advance to make sure they were expecting his arrival.
Doyle asked, "So Bob, where is Aunt Syrian?"
"She is in the kitchen." Winston replied.
"Thanks." Doyle headed to the kitchen. It was a nice homey kitchen with lots of ornamentation, a large stove, and the food cooking on the stove smelled good. Doyle thought, "Such a shame it has to go to waste." There sat Aunt Syrian at the kitchen table folding and unfolding napkins. There was nothing significant one could say about this woman. Syrian was handcuffed. She appeared to be well kept. Her nails were manicured, her hair styled, and her clothing tidy. She appeared to be the essence of someone who was from the upper class.
Doyle introduced herself, "Hello, my name is Virginia Doyle, I am a Child Protective Service Investigator and I have been assigned to investigate what happened this evening. Can you tell me who you are and what relationship the children have to you?"
Aunt Syrian responded, "My name is Syrian Smooth, this is my home. I work as an account executive at the local bank. Those children belong to my sister, Stephanie. I am their aunt."
Doyle responded, "Thank you. Do you know where your sister, Stephanie is?"
Aunt Syrian calmly stated, "The last I heard, she was going to New Mexico with a rich 'John' for awhile. But that was over a month ago." Doyle inquired, "Do you have anyway to get in touch with Stephanie?"
Aunt Syrian responded, "No."
Doyle asked, "Do you have any other family that she might contact?" "No."
Doyle asked, "Well then, will you tell me what happened here this evening and start at the beginning?"
Aunt Syrian stated, "I went over to get my nieces and nephews for a Fourth of July Celebration here. We always have lots of fireworks and they could use some food and a good time. I started to make food immediately when we got home. Those children are always hungry, you know. I realized that I did not have as much food as I previously thought. I needed to go to the store to get more. I told Steve about the lack of food and he gave me some money. I asked the children to go, but that 'little devil,' Stella, stayed behind. Something told me to take her, I sure wish I had." Aunt Syrian looked off to the side as if remembering.
Doyle prodded, "So what happened next?"
Aunt Syrian continued, "Well, by the time we got back from the store, the deed was done. Steve came down to help get things out of the car and I could see something was wrong. We put the children in the living room and turned on the TV loud so they couldn't hear and he told me what she did. I was furious. I went into the kitchen to start making food for the family when Stella came into the kitchen spouting lies. I told her I would hear none of it. She threatened to call the police and grabbed the phone. I took the phone away from her." Syrian paused and looked at Doyle, "Was she the one who called the police? She ran out the door screaming."
Doyle answered, "Yes, it was Stella who called in the report."
Aunt Syrian said, "Well, the other children were being good, laughing and watching television in the living room with Steve. So, I don't think they heard her bad behavior. I gave them popcorn and soda for a snack while I prepared corn on the cob, hot dogs, hamburgers and, you know the typical 4th of July menu. They all were hungry."
Doyle inquired, "So, what happened next?" Aunt Syrian continued, "I went upstairs to straighten our room and check things out. Steve saw me start up the stairs and followed me. He told me again what she had done to him. I took the linen off the bed and went into the basement to do a tub of wash. I was just about to put the sheets in the tub when the officers came busting into the laundry room and stopped me."
Doyle responded, "Are you aware that your husband admitted to raping your niece, Stella?"
Aunt Syrian replied, "He didn't rape her! She forced herself on him." Doyle inquired, "Do you know that Stella is only an eight years old?" Aunt Syrian, "Of course I know she is eight years old!"
Doyle continued, "What your husband did with your niece tonight constitutes statutory rape!"
Aunt Syrian yelled back, "You're wrong! He did nothing wrong! He is innocent, it was her fault!"
Doyle spoke calmly, "Syrian Smooth, I find no criminal evidence that you participated in that child's rape, so I will leave you here in your home with your thoughts. Doyle motioned for the officer to uncuff her. Doyle continued, Before we leave, I need to confirm if you are the biological sister of Stephanie Johnson or just really good friends?"
Aunt Syrian responded, "She is my biological sister. You do not need to take the children!"
"What happens if one of the children get sick? Do you have any paperwork to allow you to get medical attention for them?" Doyle asked.
Aunt Syrian said, "No, they can go to the school nurse."
Doyle handed Syrian a piece of paper. "I am giving you this temporary custody notice to give your sister, Stephanie, when she shows up, another copy will be taken to their home. The temporary custody covers of all of Stephanie's children. Each child will be kept in protective custody until we sort all this out. There will be a custodial hearing in seven days and I will send you notification. Here are two of my cards, give one to Stephanie so she can call me and have a visit with her children."
Aunt Syrian responded, "There is no reason for you to take the other children."
Doyle answered, "Yes there is. The children have no legal guardian or substitute caregiver with the ability to properly care for them if they become ill or get injured."
Aunt Syrian nodded, "Oh, I see what you mean. Okay."
Doyle motioned to the officer standing by and they left the kitchen together. As she walked to the hallway, Doyle contacted her office to inform that she had officially taken custody of all the children. The placement office informed that placements had been arranged for all the children and provided the addresses where the children were to be taken. Doyle handed the list of names and addresses to Detective Winston when she arrived in the hallway. Winston went to the den opened the door and gave the information to the three officers standing guard over the children. The officers moved their squad cars to the back of the home and took the children out the back door. Each officer was assisted by Investigator Doyle who helped secure the children in the vehicles. The children were taken to the various emergency receiving home locations provided by C.P.S. placements.
Winston stated, "Well Virginia, my group has done our part, now it's up to the wheels of justice."
Doyle responded, "Thanks for your help! I'm finished here and I'll be taking Stella to Child's Help for the medical exam. Then I'll take her to the group home placement they have found for her."
Winston replied, "I'll leave an officer here with you until you are safely clear of the home."
"Thanks Winston! Here is your copy of the Temporary Custody Order. I'll fax a copy of my report to your office tonight when I get finished."
Winston nodded and walked out the door and Doyle went into the spare room to get Stella. When she opened the door she saw that Stella had been playing cards with Officer Jean. They had turned the radio on so she heard none of the commotion outside of that room. Stella looked up.
"Time to go." Doyle said.
"Okay." Stella stated and picked up her backpack. Officer Jean escorted Doyle and Stella out of the home and walked with them to Doyle's pickup. "Thanks for your help, Officer Jean." Doyle stated. "No problem." Officer Jean replied as she hugged Stella goodbye. Doyle put Stella her old black pickup and as they drove away they saw Officer Jean and her partner rolling up the crime scene tape. Doyle and Stella waved goodbye as they headed off to Child's Help.
Evidence Collection - Child's Help
Stella seemed to enjoyed riding in Doyle's old pickup. Doyle changed the radio station to something Stella wanted to listen to.
Stella asked, "Can I roll the window down?"
"Sure, it is a cool evening breeze tonight." Doyle responded.
Stella seemed to enjoy having the wind rush through her long hair. Doyle was pleased because she wanted Stella to calm down. Doyle knew she was scared but still being brave. Stella tough night wasn't over.
Stella asked, "Where are my brothers and sisters?"
"They are all safe. The officers took yourbrothers and sistersto nice homes where they will get lots of food, clean clothes and sleep in cozy beds.They will be safe in those foster homes until we sort things out." Doyle responded.
Stella asked, "Can I see them? I didn't get to see them! I have been taking care of them you know."
Doyle softly answered, "Stella, all I can do right now is to tell you that they are fine!" Doyle changed the subject. "Do you know where we can find your mother?"
Stella said, "No."
Doyle asked, "Do you have any other relatives?"
Stella responded, "No, Aunt Syrian is the only family we have." Stella sat quiet for awhile then asked, "Where are we going?"
"To a place called, 'Child's Help'. They have children's doctors there. They help children and we need a doctor check you out. We want to make sure you are okay inside. Do you hurt anywhere?" Doyle responded.
Stella said, "Yes, I hurt all over. Can the doctor help?"
Doyle answered, "Talk to the doctor about that. We're here."
Doyle pulled into the parking lot at Child's Help, parked and helped Stella get safely down from the pickup. Outside on the walkway, there is a pond with fish, a waterfall, and inside there are lots of toys and animals of all sizes and shapes. The walls have lovely pictures with happy laughing children playing, jumping rope, and running that have been painted by volunteers. It is designed to provide solace to those in high stress.
Dr. Frank came out to the entrance. "Hello." she said greeting Doyle and Stella. She led them into the lobby. It was approximately 10:30 p.m. in the evening when they arrived. "I have been waiting for you both. Is this Stella?" Dr. Franks asked.
Doyle said, "Yes,
Dr. Franks, this is Stella."
Dr. Franks turned to Stella, "Hello dear. You have had quite a time tonight. Let's get this over. Can you come with me so I can check out your wounds?"
Doyle asked, "Stella, do you feel comfortable going with Dr. Frank alone to the exam room? I can come with you if you need me?" Stella said, "Thanks, I'll be okay."
"Well then," Doyle responded, "I'll be here waiting for you when you are done."
Stella said, "Okay."
Dr. Frank grabbed Stella around the waist and started her walking to the examination room. "Stella do you hurt anywhere?" she asked. As Stella begins to answer they disappear into the exam room.
Doyle had requested a child psychologist be available tonight. Child Psychologist, Doctor Karin came out to speak with Investigator Doyle "Hello Doyle, what happened to that little girl?."
Doyle described what happened to Stella that evening. Doctor Karin agreed that Stella might need on-going counseling from a Child Psychologist after the trauma she went through.
About 30 minutes elapsed before Dr. Frank came out to chat with Doyle and Dr. Karin. Dr Frank stated, "We will send the clothing she was wearing to the Crime Lab forensics group for evidence. My nurse is helping Stella select a new outfit to put on. She is excited to get new clothing. Poor dear, Stella states that this was the first penetration she had ever had. The 'perp' was brutal with her and she has lots of internal bleeding and tears that will need to heal. Here is the medicine she will need to take to prevent infection, who knows what he might have had. I will run blood tests to see if we need to do further intervention. It is important to inform the group home that Stella sustained significant damage to the roof of her mouth and will not be able to eat crunchy things for a bit. She also has a partially broken a tooth, she stated that she bit him. Stella will need to be taken to the dentist to get the rest of the tooth pulled out, fortunately it is a baby tooth. Well, you can go in now, I'll fax my report to your office."
"Thanks doc!" Doyle stated.
Doyle glanced at Child Psychologist Laura Karin. "Doctor Karin, why don't you come in with me now and I'll introduce you to Stella. We need to do a video taped account of this evenings activities. I am hopeful a video will be adequate evidence since the perp admitted he raped her. Stella has been very brave and will probably be able to give an accurate account of what occurred. She needs to express her feelings."
Child Psychologist Karin nodded, "Okay Virginia, the room is already setup. I'll relieve Dr. Franks nurse and take her to the 'toy room' to begin to question Stella." Doyle and Karin walked into the exam room to greet Stella.
Doyle calmly states, "Stella, this is Doctor Karin. She needs to talk with you a bit about what happened to you this evening. Can you speak with her a little?"
"Okay." Stella said bravely.
"If you like, I can be with you when you speak."
"I'll be okay Investigator Doyle." Stella stated.
Doyle replied, "Alright then, I'll wait for you in the lobby next to the pool. Okay?"
Stella stated, "Okay."
Doctor Karin stated, "Stella, let's go into the toy room." as she ushered Stella into the room for video questioning. From a child's point of view, the room looks rather large like a den with lots of toys and games to play with. The feeling is that the toys in the room provide both comfort and a way for children to demonstrate the actions that are sometimes difficult for them to explain. Doctor Karin is familiar with the process because she has been working for Child's help for many years. Her questioning techniques always calms the children. She is aware of and is an expert in getting the information necessary for a court of law. Doyle watched Karin question Stella though the two way glass with another Child's Help Officer. This officer was watching the video tape to make sure the quality was good and the questions and answers are captured for court.
"Nothing new here," Virginia Doyle thought as she wandered out to the Child's Help entry. It was a really beautiful and tranquil place. While Doyle waited for Stella to arrive after the medical and psychological portion of the investigation was concluded, she called the group home.
Doyle asked, "May I speak with Mrs. Ferguson."
"Ferguson here." was the reply. Doyle continues,
"I am Investigator Doyle, you need to know that Stella had not eaten in a while except for buttered popcorn and soda at the neighbors home."
"Okay dear, do you have the child's size?"
Doyle gave Mrs. Ferguson the information so that clean clothing will be placed in the closet and drawers of the room Stella will occupy. Doyle mused, "Stella will be pleased to have a choice of things to wear." Every emergency receiving home stocks multiple sizes of female and male clothing.
Mrs. Ferguson stated, "I'll be waiting for Stella. I made roast beef this evening and she'll have a plate waiting."
As Doyle hung up, Doctor Karin arrived in the entry.
"I left Stella with Officer Sheila inside the toy room." Dr. Karin remarked. "Well Virginia, Stella is very alert and certainly capable enough to testify about the events of this evening. Her testimony should be adequate for her Uncle Steve to be sent to jail for what he did. Stella is a determined young lady. She has a great deal of 'Post Traumatic Stress' because of the incident, and she is very stressed about her family. being the surrogate mother makes the separation difficult for her. I will suggest children visitation so they can all be at peace. It seems they are a close knit group thanks to Stella's care. Stella will be out front soon. She is choosing a new animal to take with her to the group home."
Doyle replied, "Thanks Karin. We'll try to use the video first. That child has gone through enough trauma for someone of her age. You know how brutal attorneys can be in court."
"Yes Virginia, but this eight year old did have the courage to run to a neighbor to cry for help. Very brave calling the police when you are only eight years old. I have hope that she will overcome this terrible event."
Doyle responded, "I hope you are right Doctor Karin!"
"I'll fax a copy of my notes and the video to your office."
"Thanks again Doctor Karin."
Stella came running out and found Doyle sitting she told Stella she would be waiting for her. Doyle greeted Stella, "Hello Stella, I see you have a new friend."
"Hi!" said Stella, "Look at this beautiful green frog. See, it has a compartment to keep my pajamas inside."
Doyle responded, "Well that will come in handy. Let's get going. We are heading to your group home. Mrs. Ferguson has a meal waiting for you."
"Okay." Stella said as she tagged after Doyle out to the pickup holding onto the frog tightly. They boarded the black pickup again and headed to the group home in silence.
The Group Home
Eventually Doyle pulled into the drive of a large home.
"Stella, we have finally arrived." Doyle stated.
Stella asked, "Where are we? This place is big."
Doyle responded, "This is where you are going to stay for awhile. Let's go inside, okay?"
Mrs. Ferguson greeted them at the front door. "Hello dearie, I have a nice meal ready for you. Hope you like roast, mashed potatoes, apple pie and a big glass of milk!"
Stella said, "Oh boy do I!"
"I have enough for you also?"
"Thank you no. I've had a rather large dinner earlier this evening."
"That's okay with me" Mrs. Ferguson said nudging and smiling at Stella, "Just more for Stella then."
Stella returned the smile. Mrs. Ferguson showed Stella the bathroom for her to scrub up a bit before she ate. While Stella ate her dinner, Mrs. Ferguson chatted with her. She informed Stella and Doyle that there were four other young ladies about Stella's age in the home.
"Stella if you want to talk with anyone, feel free, they might understand." Mrs. Ferguson stated
. Stella asked Mrs. Ferguson if she had a husband.
"Not anymore dearie," Ms Ferguson stated. "He died many years ago. It's just me and they others here."
Stella sighed in relief. After Stella finished eating the meal, Mrs. Ferguson led Stella and Doyle down the hallway to Stella's new bedroom.
"There are six separate rooms in this home," Mrs. Ferguson informed. "Each young lady has their own room for privacy." Mrs. Ferguson pointed to the third door on the right, "That one is my room. Remember Stella, I'm here if you need anything. Just knock on my door."
That one is your room. Stella's room was brightly painted in light greens and yellows as if somehow they knew she was coming with a brightly colored green frog. The bed had a comforter and the drawers had clean clothing that was Stella's size. Stella's eyes popped in joy and delight because there were more toys in the room as well. Mrs. Ferguson stated, "Stella, everything in this room belongs to you now. You need to take care of it. Okay."
"Okay!" Stella replied and plopped on the bed filled with toys. It was time now for Doyle to tell Stella good-bye. Then, Doyle headed to the office to file her report.
Doyle Reports In
It was a bit of a drive to reach the Child Protective Service from the group home. During the trip, Doyle was deep in thought. She was mulling over the events of the day and thinking about how she could put in a report what happened to Stella so those reading the report could almost see Stella. Doyle believed that pieces of paper in a children's case needs to present the child. She always included pictures of the children for the attorneys and judges to see. She wanted to make sure they realized who their ruling would affect. Doyle pulled into the underground parking and headed to the elevator. The offices were on the fourth floor.
Her boss nodded to her when she arrived in the office. Brian Walters was a protective sort, always worried about his staff and never left the office for home until everyone checked in safe.
"Hello chief, it's been a tough day."
Walters stated, "I know, I've been getting calls and have the faxed reports sent in for your attention. I put them on your desk."
Doyle stated, "Because, the whereabouts of the biological mother, Stephanie Johnson, is unknown, we had to place all of the children into protective custody. The police issued a warrant for her arrest on sight based upon her neglecting the children.Fortunately, Stephanie has a recent drivers license and I faxed that picture to the New Mexico Crime unit. They will circulated it to their officers. She might be anywhere in New Mexico, or not."
"I know, everything appears to be in order." Walters concurred.
Doyle continued, "Stephanie had six children that we know of: Stella age 8, Seth age 7, Sarah age 5, Steve age 4, Stewart age 1 1/2, and baby, Susie, 3 months old. Placements paired the younger children in twos. They placed Stewart and Susie in a crisis nursery, Sarah and Steve into a foster home, and Seth and Stella in group homes."
Walters nodded, "It is unfortunate we couldn't place the family together. The stress children experience being somewhere strange if awful for them. Making it worse if they are separated from the older care giver siblings. But, with six children and the large age range, it's too much for one foster family to handle. I'm sure we did the best we could with placements. At least they are safe and have food to eat."
Doyle nodded, "And our foster families are really a special breed, taking in strays. Still, it's a concern. I'll type up the report for the judge and fax it in with all the evidence information. Do you want me to run it by you first?"
"No need. You did a great job today Doyle! Call it a night when you're done! I'm heading home myself."
On days two through six, Doyle spent a lot of time on this case. However this was only one of her cases. Doyle was also called to investigate other abuse cases during the time given her to make the States' case for custody.
During her down time, Doyle visited with each child in their current placements. In her role as an officer of the Court, Virginia Doyle, serves two functions. One as the investigator who seeks the truth by questions, extracting facts, and research. The second as Case Manager, Doyle acts as the representative of the Court. Virginia Doyle acts for the court as the legal guardian of every child she places in care. Doyle has the responsibility of making sure each Court Ward is healthy, well cared for, and in school. Because of this role, Doyle makes personal contact with each child. Doyle wants a first hand impression of each of the child. She wants to be sure that the child is safe and well adjusted in their current surroundings.
Doyle needs to make an accurately report of each child's status to the court. In order to do this, Doyle takes the time to chat with each child and every foster parent. Doyle knows that it is the foster parent who tend to the children who have most of the facts she needs. Children usually confide to their caretakers.
Experienced foster parents tend to see and hear many stories from the children they care for. They see lots of children in stress. These individuals are not only devoted surrogate parents for the children, but an excellent resource for the Court.
Today, Doyle visited with the youngest siblings of Stella first.Sarah, age 5, and Steve age 4, were placed together in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wolf. Mr. Wolf was a police Officer and Mrs. Wolf was a Certified Nursing Assistant who worked at a local hospital. The children were usually at a preschool during the day but Doyle had called earlier to make an appointment with Mrs. Wolf so she could visit with the children in their placement. This would be the first contact the children, Sarah and Steve, would have with Doyle. They might have briefly noticed Doyle in the home of their aunt directing the officers just before they were taken away to the Wolf's home. Today, they were playing together laughing when Doyle arrived. They rose when she came into the room and approached her.
Doyle stated, "Hello Sarah and Stevie! How are you today?"
Sarah ran over with a doll. "Look at my dolly." Sarah said.
"Yes, she is lovely." Doyle replied.
Stevie came over and put his hands on Doyle's arm. "Hello." Stevie said.
Doyle asked, "Do you like it here?"
Sarah ran to get another toy from the toy box.
Stevie said, "Yes!"
Doyle said, "You can go ahead and play."
Stevie went back to the toy box and he and Sarah continued to play.
Mrs. Wolf mentioned, "The children are mostly quiet. They have just started to laugh a little together. They seem to enjoy the freedom of having toys and have no problem picking them up. They enjoy eating a meal and have not expressed dislike for anything we have given them. They are lovely children."
Doyle noted that the children did not appear to be in distress of any kind.Doyle instructed Mrs. Wolf, "Take Sarah and Stevie to the physician and have the doctor evaluate them for general health, growth, and review for any sign of physical abuse or neglect. Then hand the physician my card and have a report faxed to my office ASAP we have a hearing in seven days. According to their older sister, Stella, they have had little to eat."
Mrs. Wolf nodded.
Doyle said her goodbyes and headed on to the Children's Nursery to visit Stewart age 1-1/2, and baby, Susie, 3 months old. Because these children were young, it was felt that they needed immediate medical review.
The head of the infant nursery, Mrs. Clemmons provided Doyle with the medical charts they had completed on the children's health. Despite their lack of nutrition, the children appear to be in good health.
Doyle noted Stewart was listening to a story in the ward where he was housed. He appeared to be interested in his clothing and was working on a button on his shirt. Stewart was happy when Doyle picked him up and he cooed at her.
Doyle took him to his sister, Sarah. She was playing with her toes in a lovely silk bassinette. "Stewie, do you know your sister, Sarah?"
Sarah hearing her name, looked up and smiled at Stewart and Doyle. She squeezed Doyle's finger.
Stewie reached for Sarah and she grabbed his hand and he laughed. It appeared they had familiarity for each other." Doyle and Stewie played with the Sarah handing her toys for a time. Each child appeared to be at peace.
Doyle then took Stewie back to the group of toddlers and watched him quickly crawl towards them. Doyle spoke briefly to the nursing staff at the nursery. She wanted to be sure that they realized that the children had been without food for a time because they had beenabandoned by their mother. She told them about a brave 8 year old who had assumed the responsibility of caring for them with little money.
Doyle instructed, "Take my card and report any concerns to be by phone."
Finally,Doyle drove over to visit with Stella's oldest brother, Seth.
Doyle knocked on the group home door. "Hello, my name is Virginia Doyle, I am Seth Johnson's Case Manager. May I speak with him?"
"He's down the hall, the manager, Mr. O'Conner stated." As Doyle entered Seth's room, she noted that he was on the floor playing with a train set.
"Hello Seth, my name is Virginia Doyle and I have been assigned to investigate what happened last night at your aunt's home. Can you tell me what happened?"
Seth sat up and looking at Doyle he responded, "Can I see my sister?"
Doyle replied, "Not now. Can you tell me what happened yesterday?"
Seth stood up and approached Doyle. "What happened to my brothers and sisters?"
Doyle responded, "The police placed your brothers and sisters in foster homes much like this one. They are safe."
Seth continued, "I want to see them."
Doyle replied, "I understand that you are concerned about your family, but they are safe. We need to find your mother. Do you know where she is?"
Seth sighed then said, "No."
Doyle continued, "Do you have any other family members who might be able to help care for you?"
Seth replied, "We don't have anyone except Aunt Syrian and Uncle Steve."
Doyle sighed and continued, "Okay then, what do you remember about last night?"
Seth began, "My Aunt,Syrian, came to see us. She was having a Fourth of July party at her home. Aunt Syrian knows that my mother is gone. Aunt Syrian said we were going to have lots of food to eat and have a sleep over. We were all hungry. We talked it over and agreed to go." Seth paused. "Are the others getting enough food where they are?"
Doyle answered, "Yes, they receive as much food as they want, just like you. Are you hungry?"
Seth responded, "Not now, but I was!"
Doyle prodded, "So what happened next?"
Seth continued, "Well, I turned on the television when we got there. It's cool, big screen and all. Did you see it?"
Seth continued, "We don't have one you know. It was sure great to watch it! Seth paused again.
Doyle asked again, "Seth, what happened next?"
"Well, I started watching a car race. Then, Aunt Syrian came into the room. She said she was going to the store and asked who wanted to go along. I sure did, she buys stuff for us at the store. I was sure hungry! So we all wanted to go at first.Stella changed her mind and didn't go with us. Is Stella okay?"
"Good, well, we got in the car and went over to the super store. I got some ice cream and fruit loops we were going to eat this morning."
Doyle responded, "Then?"
"Well, when we got back to the house, something wasn't right."
Doyle asked, "What do you mean?"
Seth replied, "Stella wasn't there."
Doyle said, "Oh, I see. What happened next?"
Seth continued, "I turned on the TV and Aunt Syrian brought us popcorn and soda for a snack while she was cooking dinner. Then we heard a banging on the door. I opened the door. The police came in the home and told us to go into the den."
"Did you hear or see anything else?"
"Well, a policeman asked me some questions about my address and mother, is that what you mean?"
"Yes, is there anything else you want to tell me?"
"No, when can I see my brothers and sisters?"
"I do not have an answer for that. There will be a trial and the judge will decide."
Seth looked down, "Okay."
Doyle asked, "Seth, are you okay staying here?"
Seth, "Sure, Mr. and Mrs. O'Conner are real nice, and she makes lots of food for us to eat."
Doyle stated, "Got to go now, but I'll drop by to see you again if that's okay."
Doyle stopped off to speak with the O'Conners to get their impressions of Seth. Doyle instructed the O'Conners, "Take Seth to the physician and have the doctor evaluate him for general health, growth, and review for any sign of physical abuse or neglect. then hand the physician my card and have a report faxed to my office ASAP we have a hearing in seven days. Seth states they had little to eat." Doyle gave them two cards. One for the doctor so a report could be faxed to her about Seth's health.
In this way, Doyle had fulfilled her case management role, checking in on the children and making sure they all receive a physical exam. She also consulted with the foster families that her agency employs to care for the children. As the guardian for the children, Doyle will handle all the legal, physical and emotional stuff while the children are assigned in her case load. Doyle also made sure each foster parent made an appointment with a local children's dentist so that each ward could visit the dentist within the first 30 days of custody. After driving to the four foster placements and making her visits.
Doyle continued her role as the investigator as she headed back to the office stopping off at all the local homeless shelters, and walking down the local streets known to have prostitutes looking for Stephanie.
Doyle had pulled her identification card to get a picture of what she looked like. Doyle questioned every prostitute, "Have you seen this woman?" Do you know Stephanie? Do you have any information about her."
The answers were all about the same, "I haven't seen her in a while." After three hours foot work and talking to prostitutes,
Doyle boarded her truck and headed to the home where the Johnson family had lived. Doyle knocked on the front door and was greeted by the landlord, Mr. Jonas, "Hello, may I help you?"
Doyle, "My name is Virginia Doyle and I am the assigned case manager for the Johnson children. May I see where they lived."
"Sure." Mr. Jonas stated. he lead her to the back yard. He introduced her to the other families.
Doyle asked, "Does anyone have any information on the whereabouts of Stephanie Johnson."
Each family shook their heads to indicate 'no'.
Doyle looked at the sheds the children called home. The inside was clean. There was a broom sitting by the door and a dust pan. Doyle thought, "Stella had been a good caretaker."
Mr. Jonas was helpful showing Doyle around his yard.
"Do you have any information?" she asked him.
"No, just like I told the police, Stephanie comes and goes."
Doyle thanked him for his time and drove back to her office.
Back in the Office
Once at her desk, Doyle contacted the New Mexico Police Department to make sure they got her fax about the children's mother. She wanted to be sure to cover every base.
"The children's aunt stated that she and a man were possibly heading your way." She told Detective Morales.
Detective Morales in New Mexico's Crimes Against Children Unit responded, "We put the photo of Stephanie Johnson out in the news, hung up flyers, hit the shelters, and questioned known street walkers. The answer we are getting is that no one has come into contact with her."
Doyle signed, "Thanks for your help detective."
Detective Morales stated, "We'll keep our eyes out for you. Who knows, she may have just passed through."
The child custody hearing begins seven days after a Temporary Custody Notice is issued. The authorities are well aware that all children need to be moved into a more permanent setting quickly and feel seven days is an adequate time to get the evidence together to make an informed decision. For the older children who have been told about this initial hearing, the time drags on and they worry about what might happen. These children understand their placement will be decided at this hearing. Being in turmoil about where you are going to live is difficult for everyone, and especially hard on children who have been taken away from their family. The Court will make a decision about what to do. Whether that be placing the children back home with supports, in a group home, or in a foster / adopt placement.
The seven days before a hearing pass quickly for investigators who need an abundance of evidence to substantiate their custodial case. Doyle's main job during this time would have been to setup services in the home, to attempt reunification with the parents and resolve whatever lead to the State taking custody of the children. But, in this case, Doyle had gotten no breaks locating Stephanie. The evidence was overwhelming in this case. Detective Winston and Investigator Doyle had secured adequate facts, medical reports, and statements for the judge to make an informed decision regarding the custody of the children.
Doyle called up Bob Winston to chat about the case. "We have not been successful in locating Stephanie or any relative that could serve as a potential custodial figure to keep the children together." "I mailed and hung notices at the residences of Stephanie Johnson, and Mrs. Smooth requesting concerned parties to come to the child custody hearing. Each letter provided contact numbers. No call came in here."
"None here either." Bob concurred
"I ran newspaper ads in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and in the local Glendale paper about the custody hearings. No one called the toll free numbers provided."
Bob stated, "I know. We tried also, officers placed fliers on posts in every direction to see if perchance she might have gone a different way. No word anyone has seen her."
Doyle stated, "I did face-to-face interviews with landlord, neighbors, and other prostitutes. Stephanie has not been seen in some time."
Bob continued, "I called to check the morgues around town, and in the adjoining states. There are no 'Jane Does' fitting the last known description of Stephanie."
"Well Bob, Stephanie has been away for sometime. Although she had a history of leaving the children, according to witnesses, she also has a history of returning when the money is getting low. I can't help but feel an underlying concern for Stephanie.
Bob stated, "Doyle you know when parents choose to victimize themselves as street walkers, bad things can happen. It is a dangerous way to make a living."
Doyle concurred, "That's what worries me. Why she did not come back this time?"
Bob replied, "Well there is nothing we can do at this point. I know how you feel, I am sorry for the children too."
Doyle responded, "Well I plan to keep some hope despite the lack of response received. In the past I have been amazed that during a hearing, even though parents do not make contact with anyone, some seemingly magically appear in the child custody court and demand custody."
"Good luck." Winston replied. "Perhaps she will show up. You have developed a hopeful wait and see attitude maybe your wish will come true."
Doyle said, "Thanks Bob, I have developed a plan for family reunification that we can use if Stephanie shows up."
"She would have to go to jail for abandonment of her family you know."
"Yes, but this way, Stephanie could keep the children together and learn how to be a better parent. Thanks for listening Bob."
"Keep up the good work Doyle." Bob stated and hung up.
Doyle knew that without Stephanie, all her children will be scattered and their life course changed forever. Doyle prepared her report, attached pictures of the children, pictures of the housing, medical reports, and the video made by Child's Help then personally delivered her report to the clerk of the court the day before the hearing.
Doyle personally delivered a copy of her report to both attorneys also after dropping off the report to the court. Doyle felt that it was important to put a picture of each child in front of the judge. Doyle personally believed that although children are not heard in custody court hearings, they can be seen, and felt with the proper presentation and photos. After all, she thought, 'It is their fate that is being decided.'
First Court Hearing
Court runs everyday Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Doyle felt lucky to get the case on the docket early at 8:45 a.m. that day. The clerk came out of the courtroom and asked for anyone involved with the Johnson Family Custody Hearing to come inside. Doyle waited a bit and then went inside. She surveyed the room to see if perhaps Stephanie Johnson might have arrived unnoticed. Doyle nodded to Syrian Smooth who was nicely dressed and sitting behind Defense Attorney Jones as she walked up and sat next to State Attorney Georgia Giles. here was no one else present in court. Georgia had been prosecuting cases for the last six years. The report Doyle had compiled had been read and places marked by each attorney.
Georgia showed Doyle her copy. "You know Doyle, these reports are gone over with a fine tooth comb and need to be spot on. You do such a good job!"
Doyle smiled back.
The Bailiff arrived, "All rise, Judge Smith presiding." J
udge Smith came in heavily laden with papers and books. "Please be seated. I have read the complaint and the request for continued custody. This is a case regarding an apparent parental abandonment of six children placing them at risk. The children involved are listed as: Stella age 8, Seth age 7, Sarah age 5, Steve age 4, Stewart age 1 1/2, and Susie, 3 months old. It appears that the mother left the children when the youngest, Susie, was one month old in the custody of the eight year old daughter, Stella, and has not been seen or heard from since." Looking at the prosecutor, "Attorney Giles, has the parent, Stephanie Johnson, been located today?"
State's Attorney Giles responded, "No, not to my knowledge your honor."
Judge Smith looked at the defendant side. "Attorney Jones, do you have any evidence as to the whereabouts of Stephanie Johnson?"
" No your honor." Attorney Jones replied.
Judge Smith inquired, "Mr. Jones, who is present with you representing the family?"
"The family is being represented by the mothers sister, Syrian Smooth." Attorney Jones replied, "It is her desire to take custody of all the children, except Stella, your honor."
Judge Smith turned to look at the prosecution "What say you about this family member, Syrian Smooth? Have you investigated this person for suitability?"
State's Attorney Giles responded, "Yes your honor. Syrian Smooth, although not personally involved in the alleged rape of her eight year old niece, refused to get that niece assistance. In fact Syrian Smooth claimed that despite all the evidence collected including her spouses admission of the act, she maintained he was innocent of the alleged rape of her eight year old niece, Stella."
With this stated, Aunt Syrian yelled out, "He didn't rape her, she forced him your honor!"
Judge Smith looked firmly at Syrian, "Madam, in this courtroom, you do not speak unless you are asked a question by me, do you understand?."
"Yes your honor." Syrian said. "I'm sorry."
Judge Smith flipped through the paperwork. "Mrs. Smooth, this is a custody hearing not criminal court. I understand that the guilt or innocence of your husband, Mr. Smooth, will be decided in a pending in criminal court action, it is not the topic here today. This is a custody hearing. I have read the evidence prepared in this case. It is my decision that because the parent has failed to appear at this hearing, I will issue the following ruling on this case. Continued efforts need to be made to locate and secure the biological mother, Stephanie Johnson. She is charged with abandonment and neglect. Stephanie left her six children to fend for themselves. She put an eight year old in charge of providing total care of her siblings including a one month old infant. Because the whereabouts of Stephanie Johnson continues to be unknown, I will issue a bench warrant for her arrest on sight. According evidence provided by law enforcement officials, investigator Doyle, and the testimony this date by Mrs. Smooth, I have continued concern regarding the safety of the children. It is evident that there is no known family member adequately able to provide guardianship and protect the children from harm. It is so ordered that the children of Stephanie Johnson will remain in protective custody at this time. Judge Smith banged her gavel.
Bailiff shouted, "All rise. Court's adjourned."
Once the judge left the court.
Doyle made it a point to approach Mrs. Smooth. "If you make contact with your sister, please give me a call." She handed her another card. Mrs. Smooth left with Defense Attorney Jones. Doyle and State's Attorney Giles were the last to leave the courtroom.
"Good job Doyle!" Attorney Giles stated again.
After the trial ended, Doyle went back to her office to put the case files away and brief her supervisor of the court hearing.
Doyle stated, "We now have the children as wards of the court and they will stay in custody until the judge rules different. The judge issued a warrant for the mother, Stephanie Johnson, to be arrested on site."
Walters replied, "Well Doyle, there is no surprise there. Now that the custody hearing is over, it is time for you to begin the transition process."
Doyle replied, "I've already contacted on-going case management supervisor and they have assigned Shirley Lawson to the case. She has a good reputation for being thorough. I reviewed the case history with her yesterday. I explained the plan to Lawson, including the visitation of the children with each other. She states that she's on-board with everything. Shirley will continue to provide oversight for the older children in long term care."
Walters responded, "Yes, I have also heard that she is quite capable. I hope things go the way you set them up and for the children's sake, I hope they find their mother."
Doyle said, "I have set the plans in place for the other four little children, Sarah age 5, Steve age 4, Stewart age 1-1/2, and baby, Susie, 3 months old, so they can be adopted if their mother does not show up. I have made arrangements for the younger two children in the nursery to be placed in foster / adopt homes also. I do not know if they will be together or not. At least the middle two, Sarah and Steve, are going to stay together. It is unfortunate that having all four children placed together is such an obstacle. According to placements, the babies, Susie and Stewart will be placed separately. So, we will have three placements for the younger children and two group homes with the older children. So Shirley will have to monitor five placements."
Walters states, "Well, if their mother does not show up in 30 days her rights will be severed on the babies and they can be adopted. That way the cases will transition to an adoption worker for monitoring. It's a shame that the older two children will remain in long term care. But you know as well as I do that anyone over age six is almost impossible to find a permanent placement for."
Doyle responded, "Yes, but I feel sorry for the older children most of all. You know how they usually feel that somehow they are responsible for the separation. Well, I will drop by to visit the older children with Shirley Lawson so they can be introduced to her. That way I can say goodbye to Stella and Seth. I probably will not see either child again, unless Stella has to testify at the criminal hearing for Steve Smooth."
Walters stated, Doyle, you have done a fine job on this case and there is nothing more you can do for the children. When is the hearing?"
Doyle responded, "The criminal court calendar was kind of full. It won't be for another 15 days. I talked with Bob Winston and we have all the evidence needed on the case. He said it will be a 'slam dunk' win and Mr. Smooth will no doubt be sent away for the rape. To bad that knowledge will not make things easier for poor Stella."
Walters responded, "Yes, it is a shame what people do to children, that child will suffer from his act for the rest of her life. Okay Doyle, get busy on your other cases. Nice job!"
Doyle responded, "Thanks boss!"
Preparation for Trial
Twenty days pass quickly when you are an investigator, but those same twenty days passed slowly for Stella.
Prosecutor Gardner went to the group home and met with Stella. "Hello Stella, I am Prosecutor Gardner and I will be the attorney who goes to court with you when they try your uncle, Mr. Steve Smooth, for his crime against you."
Stella asked, "Will I have to see Uncle Steve?"
Prosecutor Gardner replied, "You might have to see him in court."
Stella asked, "Will I have to talk about what he did to me?"
Prosecutor Gardner said, "Stella, we all hope that you will not have to testify at the trial because your uncle has admitted to the crime, but just in case you may have to testify, discuss what happened in court, I have come here to talk to you about what might happen. Do you understand?"
Stella took a deep breath and nodded.
Prosecutor Gardner continued, "Stella, I want you to know that this most likely, will be the last time you will have to see your uncle. But you need to understand that when you testify, if you have to, he will be sitting in the court looking at you while you testify."
Stella said, "I don't want to see him."
Prosecutor Gardner replied, "I understand how you feel, but I must tell you what will happen during the trial. Stella, you have been very brave through all of this, and nothing is your fault. Mr. Smooth needs to pay for his crime against you. Hopefully after this trial is over you can start to heal and put his matter behind you. Nothing is your fault."
Stella responded, "I understand."
"Stella tell me what is the difference between a lie and the truth?" "Well, when you lie you fib, say what is not true."
"The truth is what happened."
"Very good Stella! If you do have to testify, you must only speak the truth. There will not be many people in the court room when you are on the stand. I will ask you questions about what your uncle did, and his attorney will also ask you questions. You do not need to be afraid of him or her, you just need to tell the truth what ever anyone asks. Do you understand?"
Stella stated, "I understand."
"Okay, on the day of the trial, Mrs. Ferguson, your foster mother, can come with you but she will not be allowed in the court room. Your new case manager, Shirley Lawson, will be in the court room because she is your legal guardian."
Stella asked, "What about Doyle?"
Prosecutor Gardner replied, "Investigator, Virginia Doyle, will testify in court as to the evidence she collected. You may or may not see her." Everyone will testify or talk in court when they are called. We do not know the order of testimony but your foster mother will be contacted when we do. As the prosecuting attorney, I want you to understand what will happen if you testify. I do not want you to be nervous, you just have to tell the truth. There is no need for you to be afraid, I will be there with you."
Stella stated, "I understand." "Is there anything else that you want to ask me?"
Stella stated, "Yes, when can I see my brothers and sisters?"
Prosecutor Gardner replied, "I do not have anything to do with that Stella. You need to talk with your case manager, Shirley Lawson about those things."
Stella stated, "I understand."
Criminal Trial Begins
Everyone involved in Stella case hoped the judge would accept her video testimony, no one wanted her more grief because of Mr. Steve Smooth. Finally, Uncle Steve's, day in court arrived. Everyone was ready, the times were set for individuals to testify. It was a closed hearing and witnesses would be present only at their scheduled time.
Mrs. Smooth chose to come to court and would be present during the trial. She was informed by the defense that she was not to make any comments and sit quietly. Mr. Steve Smooth would also be present during the trial. His lawyer had him dress in a nice suit Mrs. Smooth had brought instead of the jail jumpsuit. The bailiff swore all the parties providing testimony for Day 1 in advance. The attorneys were present and all was quiet waiting for Day 1 of the trial that was about to begin.
The side door opened and the Bailiff came out. He moved rapidly to the side of the podium and the Bailiff spoke loudly, "All rise, Judge Cross presiding."
Everyone present stood.
Judge Cross entered through the back door. "Please be seated. [Looking at the prosecution.] Do you have your case ready?"
Prosecutor Gardner replied, "Yes your honor."
Judge Cross, "Proceed."
Prosecutor Gardner stated, "I call Detective Robert Winston to the stand." Winston was admitted to the court by the Bailiff through a side door and proceeded to the witness seat.
"Detective Winston how long have you worked as an officer and how long have you been in the Crimes against Children Unit as a detective?" Defense Attorney Wesley stated,
"That will not be necessary your honor, we stipulate that Detective Winston is a knowledgeable member of the police department."
Judge Cross replied, "So it shall be recorded, Detective Winston's qualifications as a detective is not disputed. Continue with your questioning Prosecutor Gardner."
"Yes your honor. Detective Winston, would you describe the events of the 4th of July as you recall them."
It is important to note that case files and notes are allowed inside the court so Detective Winston was allowed to review the notes if needed.Detective Winston began his testimony. " I was sitting at my desk in the Crimes Against Children Office when I received a page at approximately 8:05 p.m. I called in and was notified that a priority one had occurred at the home located at 9842 Victoria Place, Glendale. I gathered a team of officers and we headed to the alleged scene of the crime. We arrived at the home within 10 minutes of receiving the page, or approximately 8:15 p.m., and began to securing the area." Detective Winston continued his testimony throughout the morning. His testimony included all the police interaction with the Smooth family, everything that occurred with any officer under his chargein and out of the home. He testified what Mr. and Mrs. Steve Smooth did during the time the police were on the scene. The officers interaction with Steve Smooth when he dropped the trash can and began running down the alley. Detective Winston reported evidence gathering of the forensic team under his direction. He discussed how the evidence was secured and taken to the forensic department for DNA testing. After Detective Winston had finished his testimony, the Defense Attorney Wesley had a chance at cross examination.
"Officer Winston, how can you be certain that the panties you found in the trash belonged to Stella and that they were worn that night instead of any other?"
Detective Winston responded, "Our forensic lab tested them. Because the evidence in question was received timely, they could get an approximate time. The pants had DNA smears of both Steve Smooth and Stella Johnson on them. Stella Johnson does not reside in the Smooth home. In fact, both Mr. and Mrs. Smooth reported that Stella and her siblings had not been in the home for months. Because the smears on the pants were fresh, it indicates a recent encounter."
Defense Attorney Wesley responded, "Thank you detective, no further questions."
Prosecutor Gardner stood "No further questions of this witness your honor."
Judge Cross stated, "It is getting late in the day. I have the time at eleven thirty. Court will adorn and reconvene at one o'clock sharp." She pounded her gavel.
Bailiff spoke loudly, "All rise." The judge left the room. Mr. Smooth was taken back into holding cell for lunch by the officer in his company. The attorneys and Mrs. Smooth went to lunch. Detective Winston went back to his office and put the case files away and went to lunch.
Day one continues. At one o'clock sharp everyone was in their places when the side door opened and the Bailiff came out. He moved rapidly to the side of the podium and spoke loudly,
"All rise, Judge Cross presiding." Everyone stood.
Judge Cross entered through the back door. "Please be seated."
Judge Cross stated. [Looking at the prosecution.] "Prosecutor Gardner are you ready to continue?"
"Yes, your honor, I call Investigator Virginia Doyle to the stand." Doyle was admitted to the court by the Bailiff through a side door.
"Investigator Doyle, how long have you worked as an officer of the Court and investigator in Child Protective Services?"
Doyle responded, "I have worked for Child Protective services for six years and been an investigator for three years."
Prosecutor Gardner continued, "Virginia Doyle what are your educational qualifications and departmental experience that provides you as an expert witness?"
Defense Attorney Wesley stated, "Your honor, that will not be necessary. The defense stipulates that Investigator Doyle is a knowledgeable investigator and member of the Child Protective Service department."
Judge Cross replied, "So it shall be recorded, Virginia Doyle's qualifications as an investigator is not disputed. Continue with your questioning Prosecutor Gardner."
"Yes your honor. Investigator Doyle, would you describe the events of the 4th of July as it relates to this investigation as you recall them."
Doyle responded, "Ireceived a page at 8:05 p.m. and called into the office. I was informed that a priority one had occurred at 9842 Victoria Place, Glendale and headed to the scene of the alleged crime. I parked my pickup on the side of the home at 8:35 p.m. that evening. The home was covered with bright yellow crime scene tape, there were flashing police cars up and down the block. I noted the crime lab van was parked in the drive of the home." Doyle continued to provide testimony for approximately 3 hours. She talked about her questioning of Mr. and Mrs. Smooth. She talked about her gathering evidence from witnesses and speaking withthe other children. She also discussed talking with the victim, Stella. She informed the court that Mr. Smooth admitted to raping Stella Johnson in front of two officers. After she was finished, Defense Attorney Wesley had the opportunity to cross examine Doyle.
"Investigator Doyle, did you read Steve Smooth his rights before you questioned him?".
Prosecutor Gardner, "Objection, Detective Winston already testified as to that your honor."
Judge Cross replied, "Sustained."
Defense Attorney Wesley, "No further questions your honor"
Judge Cross stated, "It is late in the day. Court is adjourned. We will resume tomorrow at 8 a.m. sharp." She banged the gavel.
The Bailiff loudly spoke, "All rise." The judge left the room. Mr. Smooth was taken back to jail. Everyone else dispersed.
Day 2 Criminal Trial
Day two begins. The bailiff swore all the parties in prior to starting court and providing testimony. At eight o'clock sharp the side door opened and the Bailiff came out. He moved rapidly to the side of the podium and spoke loudly,
"All rise, Judge Cross presiding."
Judge Cross entered through the back door. "Please be seated." Judge Cross stated. [Looking at the prosecution.] "Prosecutor Gardner are you ready to continue?"
"Yes, your honor, I call Doctor Patricia Frankto the stand. Dr. Frank was admitted to the court by the Bailiff through a side door. Prosecutor Gardner began her questions, " Dr Patricia Frank, what is your educational background and medical experience?"
Dr. Frank stated that she held two Doctorate Degrees and has been a member of the Child's help Agency for over 10 years in a medical capacity. Dr. Frank noted that she had reviewed over 10,000 rape cases in the past."
Defense Attorney Wesley stated, "Your honor, any further information will not be necessary. The defense stipulates that Dr. Patricia Frank is a knowledgeable medical professional and as a member of the Child's Help Network suitable to testify as a medical expert."
Judge Cross replied, "Very well, let it be recorded, Dr. Patricia Frank's qualifications as an medical expert is not disputed. Continue with your questioning Prosecutor Gardner."
"Yes your honor. Doctor Frank, when did you come into contact with Stella Johnson and what happened during your examination of the child?"
Doctor Frank testified, "I met Stella Johnson on July 4th at approximately 10:30 p.m. in the evening." She continued to testify for about one and a half hours about the medical examination, the rape kit evidence, and the physical damage that had been done to Stella's face, mouth and vaginal areas. Once she was finished with her testimony including photos,
Prosecutor Gardner stated, "That's all the questions I have for this witness."
Judge Cross turned to the defense, "What say you?"
Defense Attorney Wesley stated, "No questions your honor."
Judge Cross stated, "It is getting late in the afternoon. I have the time at eleven thirty. Court will adorn and reconvene at one o'clock sharp." She pounded her gavel.
Bailiff spoke loudly, "All rise." The judge left the room. Mr. Smooth was taken back into holding cell for lunch by the officer in his company. The attorneys and Mrs. Smooth went to lunch.
Day two continues. At one o'clock sharp everyone was in their places when the side door opened and the Bailiff came out. He moved rapidly to the side of the podium and spoke loudly,
"All rise, Judge Cross presiding." Everyone stood.
Judge Cross entered through the back door. "Please be seated." Judge Cross stated, [Looking at the prosecution.] "Prosecutor Gardner are you ready to continue?"
"Yes, your honor, I call Child Psychologist Laura Karin,to the stand."Child Psychologist Laura Karinwas admitted to the court by the Bailiff through a side door. Prosecutor Gardner began her questions, " Dr Laura Karin, what is your educational background and medical experience?"
Child Psychologist Karin responded, "I have a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology specializing in Children's Mental Health and held private practice as well as public service for the last 8 years. I have worked for Child's Help as the head of the Psychiatric Division for the last 5 years."
Defense Attorney Wesley stated, "Your honor, any further information will not be necessary. The defense stipulates that Dr.Laura Karinis a knowledgeable Child Psychologist and as the head of the Psychiatric Division of the Child's Help Network is suitable to testify as a medical expert in this case."
Judge Cross replied, "Very well, let it be recorded, Dr.Laura Karin'squalifications as an medical expert is not disputed.
Continue with your questioning Prosecutor Gardner."
"Yes your honor. Doctor Karin, when did you come into contact with Stella Johnson and what happened during your examination of the child?"
"I came into contact with Stella Johnson the evening of July 4th at the Child's help Department. I was introduced to Stella by Investigator Doyle of Child Protective Services. Stella had been allegedly physically assaulted by a relative. I was asked to do a psychological workup and suggest medication that might help the child sleep that evening." Dr Karin continued to testify about the mental state of Stella. She testified that Stella knew the difference between the truth and a lie. She stated about the honesty of the child, about her bravery calling the police, her bravery not letting the violence she experienced go unreported. Dr. Karin told about statistics when older children who experienced similar events were too afraid to go to a neighbor to seek help. Child Psychologist Karin described the video tape she had made. The tape was reviewed submitted as evidence. "No further questions for this witness."Prosecutor Gardner stated.
"What say you?" Judge Cross asked Defense Attorney Wesley.
"No questions for Dr Karin, your honor. However, I wish to cross examine the child, Stella."
Prosecutor Gardner responded, "I object, there is no reason for the child to experience any more trauma, Mr. Smooth has admitted raping the child."
Judge Cross questioned, "Dr. Karin, do you feel that Stella would be able to testify in this case?"
Dr Karin responded, "While I believe that Stella is more than capable of truthfully testifying as to the facts in this case, I also believe that the act of facing the perpetrator in this case would cause irreparable damage to this eight year old child."
It is important to note at this juncture that the Mrs. Ferguson, had taken Stella out of school today and Stella was in waiting room in case she needed to testify.
Judge Cross received a note at the beginning of the day and knew the child was in the waiting room. Judge Cross stated, "Let it be noted, under the advisement of Clinical Psychologist Laura Karin, I am ruling that the video testimony submitted from the night in question, is adequate verbal testimony from the child. Mr. Wesley, your request is denied."
After this, Prosecutor Gardner stated, "Prosecution rests your honor."
Judge Cross responds: Well, it's late in the day, we will resume tomorrow at 8am.
Bailiff: All rise, courts adjourned.
Prosecutor Gardner went to the waiting room and told Stella and Mrs. Ferguson the good news, Stella would not have to testify, it was over for her.
Stella sighed, "Thank you." she said.
Prosecutor Gardner said, "We were lucky!" Prosecutor Gardner had an officer escort Stella and Mrs. Ferguson out the back way and make sure they safely got to their car. She wanted to make sure that Stella would not have to come into contact with Mrs. Smooth. Mrs. Ferguson whisked Stella back to the group home.
Day 3 - Criminal Trial
Day 3 begins. The bailiff swore all the parties in prior to going into the court room to providing testimony. At 8 a.m. sharp everyone was in their places when the side door opened and the Bailiff came out. He moved rapidly to the side of the podium and spoke loudly,
"All rise, Judge Cross presiding." Everyone stood.
Judge Cross entered through the back door. "Please be seated." Judge Cross looked at the Defense Attorney Wesley and inquired, "Mr. Wesley is the defense ready to proceed?"
Defense Attorney Wesley replied, "Yes your honor, the defense calls Mrs. Syrian Smooth to the stand." Syrian Smooth rose from behind the attorney and walked up to the witness booth. Defense Attorney Wesley stated, "Please state your name for the court."
"My name is Syrian Johnson Smooth."
"Thank you. What is your relationship to the defendant in this case, Steve Smooth?"
"He is my husband of 16 years." she responded.
"How say you about the character of Mr. Steve Smooth?"
"Well, we are church going Christians and he has always been a good provider. Mr. Smooth helps coach the local soft ball team and he is well regarded by his peers at work. We both serve folks a hearty meal in the soup kitchen on holidays. I have letters here, if you care to see them?"
"Thank you Mrs. Smooth, that will not be necessary." Defense Attorney Wesley stated. " Mrs. Smooth, on the evening of July 4th this year can you recall when you came into contact with Miss. Stella Johnson, your niece, and what happened during her visit in your home that you witnessed?":
Syrian Smooth stated,"I went over to my sisters home to get my nieces and nephews for a Fourth of July Celebration at my home. I knew that my sister, Stephanie, had been gone for some time. We always have lots of food at our place, and what with it being the 4th of July we'd see lots of fireworks, too. The children were anxious to get to my home for the food and a good family time together. When I got to my home, I noticed that my husband's truck was parked in the driveway. He had just arrived home from a trip across country. I hugged him welcome and went into the kitchen to start making snacks. Stephanie's children are always hungry, you know. I got my pots and pans out and opened the fridge before I realized that I did not have enough food for such a large group. I ran out to tell Steve about the lack of food, and he gave me some money so I could get some more at the store. I asked all the children to go with me, but that, 'little devil' Stella, stayed behind."
"I object."Prosecutor Gardner rose and stated loudly, "The opinion of Mrs. Smooth is not warranted!"
"Sustained" Judge Cross stated and banged her gavel. "Mr. Wesley, please inform your witness to stick to the facts."
"I'm sorry your honor."Defense Attorney Wesley stated as he went to the witness stand and reprimanded Mrs. Smooth. When he returned to his desk,
Judge Cross inquired, "Mr. Wesley is the defense ready to proceed?"
Defense Attorney Wesley replied, "Yes your honor. Mrs. Smooth, were you present in the home during the alleged event between your husband, Steve Smooth, and Stella?"
"No, I was at the store with Stella's brothers and sisters." Defense Attorney Wesley continued, "When were you informed that there was some trouble at your home?"
Syrian replied, "Well, when the children and I got back from the store, Steve came down to help get things out of the car, and I could tell something was wrong. After living with a man for so many years a wife knows when something isn't right. I told the children to go inside with me and when they were all inside, I turned on the TV loud so they couldn't hear. I took Steve outside near the car and he told me what Stella did to him."
"I object."Prosecutor Gardner rose and stated loudly, "The opinion of Mrs. Smooth is not warranted!"
"Sustained" Judge Cross stated and banged her gavel. "Mr. Wesley, would you please tell your witness that in court we only hear facts, not opinions."
"I'm sorry your honor."Defense Attorney Wesley stated as he went to the witness stand for the second time. When he returned to his desk,
Judge Cross inquired, "Mr. Wesley is the defense ready to proceed?"
"Yes your honor. Mrs. Smooth did you encounter Stella after your chat with Steve Smooth?"
Syrian Smooth responded, "Yes,I went directly into the kitchen to start making food for the family once the groceries had been unloaded. Steve went in with the children watching the T.V. and Stella came running into the kitchen. She threatened to call the police and grabbed the phone. I took the phone away from her."
"Thank you, that will be all."Defense Attorney Wesley stated.
Judge Cross looked at the prosecutor, "Prosecutor Gardner do you have any cross?"
"Yes your honor." Prosecutor Gardner responded. "Mrs. Smooth what is Stella Johnson's age?"
Syrian Smooth responded, "She is eight years old."
Prosecutor Gardner responded, "Thank you Mrs. Smooth. That will be all."
Judge Cross inquired, "Mr. Wesley is the defense ready to proceed?"
Defense Attorney Wesley replied, "Yes Your honor, the defense calls the defendant, Steve Smooth, to the stand. Steve Smooth rose from his chair next to the attorney and walked to the witness stand. he sat down and his attorney began, "Please state your name for the court."
"My name is Steve Smooth."
"On the evening of July 4th this year can you recall when you came into contact with Miss. Stella Johnson, your niece, and what happened during her visit in your home?"
Steve Smooth responded, "Yes sir."
Defense Attorney Wesley continued, "Then sir, please tell us in your words what occurred."
Mr. Smooth nodded and began, "Well, when my wife and Stephanie's other children were at the store, my niece, Stella, came onto me."
Defense Attorney Wesley responded, "Can you explain the whole evening so that we might understand?"
Steve Smooth nodded, "Yes sir. My wife went over to fetch her sister Stephanie's children before dark. Stephanie had been gone for sometime and she felt that they might enjoy a home cooked meal. When she got back to our place with the kids, she decided that we did not have enough food for them to eat so I gave her some case. She told me that she was taking the children to the store with her to get more food." Mr. Smooth cleared his throat then continued, "I am a long distance truck driver. I arrived back home that day and was tired from a four day run so Iwent upstairs to take a nap. I sort of figured the children would probably keep me up all night what with the excitement over the fireworks and all. No sooner did I lay down than Stella Johnson appeared in my room. She came up to the bed where I was laying and started rubbing on me. To tell the truth, I was shocked that she had stayed behind because my wife always buys treats for the children at the store. I pushed her away and told her to stop playing with me. She continued to rub on me, so I gave her what she wanted."
"I object."Prosecutor Gardner stated, "His opinion of what Stella did or did not want is not warranted."
Judge Cross questioned Mr. Smooth, "Mr. Smooth, are you aware of what you are saying to the Court?"
"Yes Your Honor. I am innocent of any crime against Stella, she pestered me until she got what she wanted."
Judge Cross looked at the Defense Attorney Wesley, "Mr. Wesley have you advised your client of his rights in this case?"
Defense Attorney Wesley, "Yes Your Honor, Mr. Smooth maintains that what happened that evening proves his innocence. He blames Stella for what occurred and would not be dissuaded from testifying in his own behalf."
Judge Cross instructed, "The state has two primary objectives when responding to allegations of child abuse: (1) ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of the child or children in question, taking necessary steps to prevent further harm and (2) conducting an investigation to determine if a criminal act occurred as in this case. Investigator Doyle, represented the State Agency responsible for Child Protection and Detective Winston represented Law Enforcement. Working together as a team, they have been successful providing significant evidence to prove the criminal case against Steve Smooth. Mr. Smooth does not deny his rape of his eight year old niece. I rule that the defendant, Mr. Steve Smooth is guilty as charged. Sentencing will take place tomorrow at 8am sharp.She pounded the gavel.
Bailiff: All rise, courts adjourned.
Day 4 Judgement Day
Day 4 - The bailiff swore all the parties in prior to providing testimony.
Bailiff : All rise, Judge Cross presiding.
Judge Cross looked at Defense Attorney Wesley, "What say you on behalf of your client?"
Defense Attorney Wesley, "Mr. Smooth has never harmed any child before, and he has never raped anyone. He is a hard worker, and loves his wife. He wishes to speak on his own behalf.
Judge Cross, "Mr. Smooth, what say you?"
Steve Smooth replied, "Your honor, I am innocent. I did nothing wrong. That 'she devil' forced me."
Judge Cross, "Thank you Mr. Smooth, I have heard enough. The sentence of statutory rape provides leeway as to the time served and the sentence. Because there is no remorse in this case, I here by order your sentence of the maximum of 15 years. She pounded her gavel.
Steve Smooth: [Yells] "But, your honor, I am innocent!"
Judge Cross stated, "Officer Dow, please remove Mr. Smooth. Judge rises.
Bailiff: All rise, courts adjourned.
Summary: What Happens Now?
Doyle and Winston read the results of the trial in their office satisfied that they have done their job.
Stella and her siblings have a new Case Manager, Shirley, who needs to follow the case plan. Things can go 3 ways.
1. Stephanie, mother, returns and they do a reunification plan and the family have another chance to become one again.
2. Stephanie, mother, returns and can not make it to a successful conclusion so severance of all children happens. Children are placed up for adoption.Younger siblings get adopted but, the older siblings remain in placement until age 18.
3. Stephanie never returns and after a time the children are severed and adopted. The older children like the younger ones are placed up for adoption. Rarely are older children adopted and more than likely they remain in placement until age 18.
Prior to adoption, it is possible for the children to have family visitations with each other. Sometimes this happens, sometimes it does not. Because of what happened to Stella, she will usually be prevented from meeting with the other children for fear that some how she'd upset the others. This is unfortunate because she was the acting mother figure, but often true.
This was a story. Unreal but after a time most cases run into each other. People seem to do things the same way. Of course there are minute differences and this why we question everything and everyone to turn up the facts in each case. Social Workers and Police get so used to this type of case that they could almost write the answers without questioning anyone. Of course they are also used to being lied to so it is easier for them to see the truth.
Wouldn't it be nice if children were the important ones. They are the future and it is a sad one when children are abused this way.