Investigations into sexual crimes are conducted carefully

Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 11, 2015

This is the first in a series on sexual assault.

Crimes of a sexual nature are investigated carefully by local law enforcement agencies for a couple of reasons.

Last year more than 22 such crimes of varying nature were reported in Picayune and 41 such crimes were reported in Pearl River County outside of a municipality. Of those reported crimes seven resulted in arrests in Picayune and six resulted in an arrest in the county.

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Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Shane Tucker and Picayune Police Department Assistant Chief Jeremy Magri both said the reason why the number of reported cases and actual arrests differs is because sometimes reported cases turn out to be unfounded.

Magri said just like with any investigation, reports of crimes have to be thoroughly checked out. Sexually related crimes are handled with a bit more care because of the damage that could result.

“A false accusation of something of that magnitude could destroy a life or career,” Magri said.

In instances where a child is involved, investigators will bring in a forensic interviewer, who is trained to speak to children about such matters, Magri said.

Tucker agrees that once a person has been arrested for a sexual charge, it can be difficult to overcome. But if the evidence is there, then law enforcement agencies want to make sure the suspect is charged.

“When the shoe fits we want to be sure it fits right,” Tucker said.

While care is employed, the investigators also want to be sure to take potential predators off the street, Magri said.

In instances where the investigators gather all the evidence available but still feel they don’t have enough to make an arrest, the evidence is forwarded to the District Attorney’s office, who will present the case to the grand jury. The evidence will then be considered by members of the grand jury, who will make the decision whether to indict or not.

Tucker said he has also noticed that false accusations sometimes occur when a custody battle is ongoing. 

Additionally, some cases are harder to prosecute because they may lack physical evidence. In those instances other investigative methods can be employed, such as polygraph tests. Polygraph tests have been able to clear people of false accusations, Tucker said.

For the year of 2014 the Picayune Police Department received one reported case of possession of child pornography, one reported case of gratification of lust of a vulnerable person, four reported cases of rape, three reported cases of statutory rape, two reported cases of sexual battery and nine reported cases of child molestation.

According to records with the Police Department of those reports there was one arrest for possession of child pornography, one arrest of gratification of lust of a vulnerable person, two arrests for rape, one arrest for statutory rape, no arrests for sexual battery and two child molestation arrests.

Records at the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department show that there was one case reported of possession of pornography that did not lead to an arrest, 19 cases reported of fondling that led to four arrests, one case of incest that did not lead to an arrest, 11 reported cases of forcible rape that led to one arrest, two reported cases of sexual assault with an object that did not lead to any arrests and seven reported cases of statutory rape that led to one arrest.

The Poplarville Police Department received one report of child molestation that was unfounded and one report of sexual assault that was also unfounded, said Capt. Rossie Creel.