Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 6, 2014

Preliminary hearing held for former youth leader

PRINCETON — The case of a former church youth volunteer and child mentor was bound over to the grand jury Wednesday after probable cause was found during a hearing that included graphic testimony from a State Police investigator.

Timothy Probert, 55, of Bluefield, appeared before Mercer County Magistrate Jim Dent for the preliminary hearing on 38 child sexual abuse related charges.

Sgt. M.D. Clemons, with the Crimes Against Children Unit of the West Virginia State Police, was questioned on the stand by defense attorney William Flanigan about her investigation into alleged crimes that occurred when Probert was a youth volunteer at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bluefield, and a volunteer with the Working to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect (WE CAN) program. The charges stem from incidents that date back to 1986, with the latest incidents occurring between July 2008 and 2010.

Clemons said she was initially contacted regarding the case by Westminster Presbyterian Pastor Jonathan Rockwell.

During her testimony, Clemons provided a graphic explanation of the alleged acts, which included “mutual masturbation” between Probert and the victims, as well as oral and anal sex.

Clemons testified that there are eight male victims, and all were young teens when the abuse occurred. She said Probert mentored three of the victims while volunteering with the WE CAN program and the others he knew through church. She said all of the crimes he is charged with occurred at his residence in Bluefield.

Clemons testified that the youths would come to Probert’s house, where he would give them alcohol and provide them with heterosexual pornographic movies. “They would watch them together ... and engage in mutual masturbation.”

Some victims were made to perform oral sex on Probert, and he would perform oral sex on them, Clemons said.

She testified that Probert also sexually assaulted some of the victims by performing anal sex on them. “One (victim) performed anal sex on Probert.”

Flanigan asked Clemons if she seized any pornography during her investigation. Clemons said she did not, explaining that because of the dates of the crimes there was no cell phone evidence and many of the victims told her the pornographic movies were rented from a video store.

Flanigan then clarified that it was an “old-timey type” of explicit sexual material.

Clemons was also asked about the accuracy of the victims’ memories regarding their ages at the time the alleged abuse occurred. She explained that many of the youths could tie the time of the incidents with other events in their lives, such as having braces or getting a driver’s license.

Flanigan questioned Clemons extensively about the relationship between Probert and the children, and whether he was in a custodial role or a position of trust. Clemons testified that Probert was in a position of trust, noting the parents of the youths allowed their children to sleep over at his house. “Those parents trusted him to take care of them.”

Probert also “led a lot of youth trips” for the church, Clemons said.

Following the questioning, Dent found probable cause against Probert. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John McGinnis represented the state at the hearing.

Probert is 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.

Probert remains free on bond.

— Contact Samantha Perry at sperry@bdtonline.com

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