Saying the evidence does not support the claims, Park County’s top prosecutor has declined to launch criminal prosecutions in the case of a kindergartener whose parents say she was sexually assaulted at school by older students.
“There will be no charges filed as the investigation into these allegations does not support that any crime(s) ever occurred,” Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric wrote in a Tuesday letter to Cody Police Department Detective Trapp Heydenberk.
The girl’s father said he shook with rage and surprise when he heard the news Tuesday.
“I’m trembling I’m so in shock,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
He said he and his wife have quit their jobs and are in the process of moving to a new town, and that they’ve gotten his parents to support them while they start their lives over.
How It Started
The case started Oct. 26, when a 5-year-old girl told her parents that bigger girls cornered her in a school bathroom, beat her and shoved objects into her vagina on multiple occasions.
The parents contacted the Cody Police Department. They also took the girl to her pediatrician’s office, where a physician’s assistant found the girl had both contamination and trauma in her vagina.
“I do believe she has been abused sexually,” wrote the evaluator, adding that she recommended three different counselors to her parents and that the girl start counseling right away.
A Finding Of Trauma, Infection
Skoric noted in his declination letter that the girl’s evaluator was not a certified pediatric sexual assault examiner. He said the exam deviated from protocols for a case like this.
“The parents made the decision and defended that decision to take their daughter to a physician assistant specializing in family medicine for a determination whether their daughter had been sexually assaulted,” the prosecutor wrote. “It seems highly unusual for a physician assistant to be conducting sexual assault evaluations on young children as these examinations are done to collect forensic evidence for prosecution purposes.”
Law enforcement agents involved a “trained examiner” in the case, who then consulted with an OB/GYN, the letter says.
Both experts indicated the physician assistant’s exam “did not follow best practices” and was outside her scope of expertise, wrote Skoric.
“Aside from the opinion alone of this physician assistant, nothing in the review of medical records or otherwise establishes that a sexual assault occurred,” Skoric added.
The girl’s father countered, saying he called four hospitals seeking a qualified doctor, and told the detective he’d be happy to have the girl evaluated.
“He said, ‘That’s good to know,’ but he did not take us up on that,” the father added.
Child Advocacy Center
When a child forensic interviewer questioned the girl in Casper, the girl “disclosed that she had fabricated at least part of her story,” says Skoric’s letter. “It was one of the more serious and disturbing allegations … which she admitted was simply not true.”
The girl’s father was adamant Tuesday that her claims are true. Over multiple interviews, he’s referred to stark changes in her behavior including distress, a new interest in genitals, incontinence, nightmares and intense fear.
“My daughter did not lie. Everything she said is true,” said the father.
The girl’s mother said it felt as if the case were being swept under a rug.
The girl’s parents were frustrated with police and the girl’s school throughout the case, saying those overseeing both investigations did not keep in touch with them adequately, and that Cody Police Department sent them to Casper for a child forensic interview rather than to the closer city of Billings.
The child forensic interviewer was “scary” and harsh toward the girl, the girl’s father told Cowboy State Daily.
Skoric disputed this.
“Certainly not the case,” wrote the prosecutor in a Tuesday email to Cowboy State Daily. “I am uncertain how the father would know this as he has never seen the interview.”
The father has voiced frustration over not getting to see his daughter’s interview.
Skoric said it would be “highly inappropriate and against all protocols” for parents to view the forensic interview during the investigation.
He said the child forensic interviewer was a trained professional using the National Children’s Advocacy Center Model, a designation the girl’s father claimed lacks accountability.
‘This Is Over’
The girl said she could pick out her attackers if she saw their photos. Her father gave police photographs of four girls that his daughter identified, along with graphic descriptions of what the girl said they’d done.
“However, the investigation revealed two of the four suspects do not even attend Livingston School,” Skoric wrote in his letter. “The plausibility of these juvenile females being involved in various assault during school days when they do not even attend that school makes it highly problematic for this story to hold any merit.”
The father said the wrongly identified girls may look like the actual attackers.
“I can’t be a vigilante and hunt down these little kids myself,” he said. “I’ve just wished so much these were older people and that I’d never called the police and could have prairie justice. I am so angry.
“But there’s nothing you can do. They’re little kids. They can’t do anything. This is over.”
A Dispute About Injuries
In addition to the girl’s reports of being sexually assaulted, she said her attackers also kicked, beat, punched and stomped on her in one school restroom, Skoric’s letter says.
The girl did not report the alleged beatings on the dates they were said to have happened, and the teachers did not observe crying or physical injuries after those dates, the county attorney’s letter continues.
“The lack of any obvious physical injury or evidence of these alleged violent assaults … which naturally would have been observed by people who would have seen her and been around her, including school staff and teachers, is highly suspicious,” Skoric wrote.
The girl’s father said they would see “bumps and bruises” on the girl, which they chalked up to the normal rigors of being a kid. They also noticed her lips were scraped and at the time — before she told them she’d been sexually assaulted — they figured she’d been picking at her lips.
This was “never” reported to the Cody Police Department, Skoric countered. He said the violent punching, kicking, beating and stomping the girl described would have resulted in “more significant injuries” than the scrapes and routine bumps and bruises.
Camera Footage ‘Ordinary’
Investigators also reviewed Livingston Elementary School camera footage from outside the bathroom.
The footage contained “nothing out of the ordinary,” says Skoric’s letter.
He elaborated in his email:
“When someone enters a restroom and is assaulted to the gravity alleged, they are not going to walk out of the restroom without exhibiting some signs of physical injury or emotional distress,” Skoric wrote. “None of this was observed on camera, nor was any of it observed by any teachers or staff in the immediate area.”
The prosecutor lamented that the father brought the girl’s allegations to the media.
“This is highly unusual since they were only allegations, but I attribute this unfortunate scenario to the emails that were sent to the parents of Livingston students as well as to the father of the alleged victim who has shared information of these allegations with the media,” reads the letter.
The girl’s father said he turned to the media because he believed doing so would pressure authorities to act on the case.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.