Authorities Reopen Criminal Investigation Of School Officials

Authorities Reopen Criminal Investigation Of School Officials

By Phil Williams. CREATED Mar 20, 2013 - UPDATED: Mar 11, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Tenn. - Authorities have reopened a criminal investigation into the conduct of some Robertson County school officials, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has learned.

At the center of that investigation are questions about how those officials handled the sexual molestation of some young elementary school students by their classmates. 

Robertson County Sheriff Bill Holt confirmed that the case was reopened after a new victim came forward following a recent NewsChannel 5 investigation. Now, it could be up to the DA to decide whether to take the case against those school officials to a grand jury.

"Shortly after your last report, we had another family come forward," Holt said.

The on-going investigation focuses on what happened inside East Robertson Elementary.

Shelly Belcher told NewsChannel 5 Investigates last month that her first-grade son was molested by a classmate.

"He told me that a classmate had repeatedly touched him inappropriately," Belcher recalled.

Taryn Spivey said it happened to her second grader -- at the hands of yet another perpetrator.

"This boy had touched him in his private places and was making sexual gestures and sexual noises," Spivey said.

Yet, both families claimed in a recent federal lawsuit that school officials not only did nothing, they also tried to cover it up.

"As a result of that reporting, we had another family come forward and make a similar complaint," Sheriff Holt said. "Based on that complaint, we conducted the investigation. DCS got involved along with the Sheriff's Office."

In the first two cases, the parents claimed that school officials even refused to help Children Services investigators track down the potential victims.

"For four weeks, DCS had my child's first name, but not our last name," Shelly Belcher said. "That could have been four weeks less that my child went through the things he had to go through."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Do you think the abuse continued during that four weeks?"

"I know it did," she insisted.

Yet, the families said that a prosecutor had refused to pursue charges in the case. Instead, the lawsuit alleged, he wanted to "mend fences" with school officials.

"Subsequent to that, the detectives met with the district attorney general, assistant district attorney, and they have reopened all the cases now," Sheriff Holt said.

The sheriff said the DA recently asked investigators to go back and do some additional work on the cases to make sure they understand exactly what happened to those children.

That work, he added, is almost done.

"Usually, these type of things wind up going to a grand jury," Holt said. "But that's their decision to make eventually after they weigh all the facts -- the new information with the old information -- and put it together."

As for the families, they said that they fear there may be even more victims at East Robertson.

"I believe, five to six," said Shelly Belcher.

"Five to six other victims?"

"Yes, sir."

It is not known exactly which school officials might be implicated in a criminal investigation.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to Robertson County schools, but they declined to comment on this latest development.

As for the increase scrutiny of the case, Sheriff Holt said there are two factors at work.

One is the new victim.

But the other, he said, is a request from NewsChannel 5 Investigates to look at the investigator's files. And that, he added, has a lot of people looking at the case to make sure it was handled correctly.

 
Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.

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