HILLSBORO — As a criminal investigation into suspected sexual abuse of a 2-year-old from a local Amish community unfolds, more than 30 people, most appearing to be from the Amish community, lined the hallways of the Highland County Courthouse on Monday morning during a children’s services hearing in juvenile court.
When the hearing ended, Judge Kevin Greer ordered the 2-year-old and her two siblings be placed with their paternal aunt and uncle until the case is resolved.
The children’s services case stems from a complaint filed in Highland County Juvenile Court by Hannah Allard, a caseworker with Highland County Job and Family Services, alleging that the 2-year-old was a “victim of ‘sexual activity’” and therefore was not safe.
After test results later indicated there were traces of semen in the child’s underwear, the child and two siblings, ages 3 and 4, were removed from the home and placed in the care of a Mennonite foster family, according to the complaint. Officials were apparently attempting to place the children in a family with a culture similar to what they have known.
The complaint states the 2-year-old was brought by her mother to a local hospital on Aug. 9 with vaginal bleeding, and was found to have a “small tear in her anterior labia with active bleeding,” as well as discoloration and a “foul odor.”
The child was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where she was given treatment and later released, according to the complaint.
When Allard met with the family on Aug. 16, it was reported that the bleeding had resumed on Aug. 14, the complaint said.
According to the complaint, on Sept. 6, test results were returned indicating semen was found in the child’s underwear, which was collected after the initial examination.
During a later meeting between Allard, detective Jennifer Schinkal with the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, and family members of the child, the complaint states, a family member said it was impossible that sexual abuse could have occurred, and “accused the state of placing semen in the underwear.”
During proceedings Monday, the court heard testimony from Amy Ward, a nurse who conducted the initial examination, and from Allard.
Attorneys Denny Kirk, Kristy Wilkin and Kathryn Hapner, who represent the family, all argued in favor of the children being placed with the aunt and uncle, with Hapner saying the couple is willing to comply with any orders imposed by the court regarding temporary custody.
“The children have been very protected, and have led a very protected, closed existence,” Hapner said. “What is best for them is to maintain that existence and life they have had.”
Allard expressed concern regarding the safety of the children being placed in that home in light of the ongoing investigation. Hapner said the home is five or six miles away from parents’ home.
Later in the afternoon, judge Greer ordered the children be placed with the aunt and uncle under a number of conditions, including no contact betwen the children and their parents unless permitted by children’s services, visitation permitted only at the Family Advocacy Center, and access to the home for children’s services caseworkers at any time.
“Any violation of this order shall result in immediate removal of all three children from the home,” the order states.
According to the order, those conditions will remain in place pending further hearings on the matter.
Allard also said she has received a number of threatening phone calls from some of those involved, including one voicemail that said, “You’d better watch your step.”
Allard declined to comment to The Times-Gazette, but JFS director Katie Adams said Allard and her supervisor both received threatening phone calls, although she added it’s not uncommon for caseworkers to receive threats in cases like this.
“I would say it’s not untypical for us to receive threats on our workers in the nature of the business they do, removing children,” she said. “You’re going to get threatened every once in a while.”
As for the 30 or so people at the courthouse, Adams said the demonstration seems to be a show of support for the family.
“Culturally, for the Amish, everything in their community is very open,” Adams said. “Everybody knows everybody else’s business… I believe those folks are there to support the family.”
The next hearing in the case will be held Friday, Nov. 24.
Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera would not comment on the investigation except to confirm that it was ongoing.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.