Defendants in alleged Mingo Co. sex abuse cover-up attend hearin - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Defendants in alleged Mingo Co. sex abuse cover-up attend hearing

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WILLIAMSON, WV -

The parties accused of participating in a sex abuse cover-up met in Mingo County Circuit Court Friday.

It's the case everybody's talking about, excluding the people potentially involved.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed an injunction last week against several employees at Burch Middle School and the Mingo County Board of Education. The documents allege these adults covered up multiple incidents of sexual abuse.

School officials knew about the abuse cases, but instead of reporting the complaints to the proper authorities, they intimidated and threatened the female victims, according to court documents.

Some of the defendants include the principal, the vice principal, a coach, the superintendent of Mingo County Schools, the boys' parents, and a substitute guidance counselor. The hearing was closed to the public because it involves juveniles.

Hester Keatley was working at Burch Middle School as a substitute when she heard about these abuse complaints.

"Did you have any part in this?" asked 13 News reporter Alanna Autler. "Do you still maintain you had nothing to do with this?"

"I just need to know what I'm supposed to have done," Keatley responded.

Last week in a 13News exclusive, Keatley shared her side of the story. She claims she did not cover up anything.

"When I had those statements completed, I turned them over to the principal," Keatley said in a phone interview May 9. "That was the last I had anything to do with it because the regular counselor came back."

The principal at the time, she said, was Jada Hunter. The injunction Morrisey filed claims no one, including the principal, reported the alleged abuse to police. State law requires "mandatory reporters" must inform the proper authorities of these complaints within 48 hours.

Morrisey also attended the closed hearing.

"This is one step in a number of an ongoing matter," Morrisey said. "There's still pending civil and criminal investigation."

Although the attorney general refused to reveal specific details surrounding the case, he said his office is not seeking monetary relief.

The injunction seeks to protect the victims by barring any interaction with the adult defendants. It also asks the Mingo County Board of Education to cooperate with the West Virginia State Police and reverse any "discipline charges and other adverse action" taken against the victims.

"We're working hard to make sure that the rights of the children are ultimately protected, so I do think we made some steps forward today," Morrisey said.

Several people who attended the hearing said the judge eventually asked the parties and their attorneys to discuss the matter themselves in the jury room.

The Crimes Against Children Unit continues to investigate a criminal case, according to Lt. Baylous with the West Virginia State Police. He said the Human Rights Commission is also investigating the alleged cover-up.

The state trooper investigating the case visited the Mingo County Courthouse Friday. He told 13 News he was delivering documents to the Mingo County Prosecutor's Office.

No one from the Mingo County Board of Education has returned phone calls regarding the injunction. Administrators issued this statement last week:

"We are aware of the complaint that has been filed in the Circuit Court of Mingo County. Once the county has been formally served, we will respond accordingly. Mingo County Schools takes student safety seriously and remains committed to providing a secure environmental for all students."

Deputies had served all the defendants except Keatley as of 8:30 a.m. Friday, according to the Mingo County Sheriff's Department. Morrisey would not comment on whether Keatley was served during the hearing.