First hearing held in middle school sex abuse case

May 18, 2014

By Rachel Dove


WILLIAMSON - All parties involved in an alleged sex abuse case and coverup in a Mingo County middle school were in court Friday morning for a status hearing.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey had filed an injunction last week that alleges two seventh-grade boys at Burch Middle School had sexually abused and harassed two of their female classmates. According to the injunction, when the girls asked for help from several school administrators and staff members, they were punished and nothing was done to stop it.

By law, school administrators must report an alleged crime such as this to police within 48 hours.

The status hearing Friday was held in the Mingo County Circuit Courtroom behind closed doors, because the case involved juveniles. No media or members of the public without direct involvement in the case were allowed inside.

However, one of the defendants listed in the injunction, Hester Keatley, told the media before entering the courtroom that she still has not been served with documents concerning the injunction, but she still asked to attend the hearing. Keatley was the only one of the nine listed in the injunction who had not been served because she was out of town. No information was readily available following the hearing that would verify or deny that she was served inside the courtroom.

Morrisey would not release many details about the hearing, but did say they are making progress to find justice for the two females involved in the case.

“We have had some discussions with attorneys on the other side,” Morrisey was quoted as saying. “We are in the process of making progress in the end ensuring that the children’s rights are being protected.”

The nature of Friday’s hearing was to have everyone involved get together to talk about the nature of the injunction and to discuss it with the different parties in the same room. Counsel was present for all the parties involved.

“This is one step in an ongoing matter. There’s still pending civil and criminal investigation. We are going to continue this process,” Morrisey said.

“We don’t have anything specifically right now. We are trying to work with the parties to reach consensus because that serves the best interest of the state and the children,” the attorney general said. “We have not asked for any monetary relief. We’ve asked solely for civil injunctive relief because we want to make sure that protects the rights of the children.”

Morrisey told the media he feels that progress was made during Friday’s meeting.

“We are working to make sure the rights of the children are ultimately protected so I do think we made some steps forward.” he said.

According to information provided by the West Virginia Board of Education, Mingo County is being represented by the law firm of Dinsmore and Shohl. Calls to that office have, to date, not been returned. One of the questions the Daily News left on the attorney’s voicemail was if they could confirm if any disciplinary action had been taken against any of the individuals named in the suit.

So far, no criminal charges have been filed in this case against any of the nine defendants.