Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

December 18, 2013

Former church volunteer was accused of similar crimes in 1999, no charges were filed

BLUEFIELD — A former church youth volunteer arrested on 38 counts of child sexual abuse was accused of similar crimes in 1999 but no charges were filed.

Timothy Probert, 55, of Bluefield, was arrested Dec. 12 and charged with 22 counts of sexual abuse by a custodian; six counts of first-degree sexual abuse; seven counts of third-degree sexual assault; one count of distribution and display of obscene matter to a minor; one count of use of obscene matter with intent to seduce a minor; and one count of use of a minor to produce obscene matter or to assist in doing sexually explicit conduct. The alleged crimes stem from incidents that occurred when Probert was a youth volunteer at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bluefield and a mentor with the Working to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect (WE CAN) program.

Three of the charges involved a male youth in the WE CAN program between the ages of 9 and 12 who would stay at Probert’s house in Bluefield on weekends with his brother. In a criminal complaint filed by Sgt. M.D. Clemons, with the Crimes Against Children Unit of the West Virginia State Police, the youth stated that the accused would watch them shower, give them wine during dinner and come into their room at night and touch them inappropriately.

The youth “stated that he would be asleep and that he would wake up with the accused touching him,” according to the criminal complaint. “(The youth) stated that after the second time that this occurred he and his brother never went back to the accused’s residence and told their mother what happened. (The youth) stated that their mother had actually made a complaint to the WE CAN program.”

The complaint was made in August of 1999.

Joanne Boileau, director of the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, parent organization of the WE CAN program, said when a complaint is made an internal investigation is conducted and authorities are notified.

When the 1999 complaint was made, Boileau said, “We closed that match and terminated the mentor (Probert).”

She said the complaint was reported to the Bluefield Police Department. Asked about the outcome of the police investigation, Boileau said she did not recall “hearing anything back” from the Bluefield Police Department.

“We had made our decision,” she said. “He was too high risk to try any additional matches with him.”

Bluefield Police Lt. C.S. Myers said the late Det. John Jones was the investigator on the 1999 incident. Jones died in a car crash in 2009.

“From what I gathered, it was determined there was not enough evidence to proceed and the case was closed,” Myers said.

Myers said Jones would have made this decision in conjunction with the Multi-Disciplinary Investigative Team (MDIT) in Mercer County. The MDIT is similar to a board with members from the prosecuting attorney’s office, Child Protect, Department of Health and Human Resources officials, law enforcement officers and others.

“They have a monthly meeting where they go over these type of cases,” Myers said. “Normally, they will discuss the facts of the case and make a joint decision.”

Myers said since Probert was not charged and convicted of a sex crime in 1999, which would require inclusion on the sexual offender registry, there would be no tracking of his activities or other youth volunteer work.

Clemons said Child Protective Services was also notified of the incident in 1999. “Normally, when it’s an out-of-the home perpetrator — not someone they live with — and the parents will protect the children, CPS usually screens it out. It would be referred to law enforcement,” she said.

Boileau said WE CAN officials are cooperating with Clemons’ on her current investigation.

“We are obviously distraught about this,” she said. “We don’t ever want to put a child in harm’s way. We are here to try to help a child meet his or her full potential.”

Boileau said volunteers in the WE CAN program undergo a thorough state and federal criminal background check, reference requirements and a Child Protective Services check.

“We try to do all that we can to screen and make sure people are motivated by the purest of intentions,” she said. “We try our best to screen anyone who might have bad intentions out of the program before they get started.”

The current abuse charges against Probert stem from incidents that date back to 1986, with the last alleged incidents occurring between July 2008 and 2010. There are eight alleged victims, all male, who ranged in age from 12 to 17 at the time the incidents occurred.

Probert was arraigned after his arrest last week and is currently out on bond.

— Contact Samantha Perry at sperry@bdtonline.com.

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