MADISON COUNTY OFFICIALS RELEASE CONFIDENTIAL REPORT TO ALLEGED PERPETRATORS
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 13, 2019) — On August 5, 2019, the father of four children who live primarily with their mother and her husband reported alleged abuse to the Tennessee Department of Child Services (DCS) to request an investigation for the second time.
As of Thursday morning, XXXXXX of Jackson, TN had no assurance that a case had been opened nor that his children are safe from the abuses they allege have occurred over time and again on their most recent visit with him and his fiancée over the weekend of August 3 and 4, 2019.
The father told The Post & Email that his children have appeared troubled and “disheveled” since his 2014 divorce, after which their primary residence became that of his ex-wife. Although he has “joint custody,” the arrangement allows for the children to stay with him every other weekend.
“On November 15, 2018, we first heard about sexual abuse,” the father said in a lengthy interview with us on Tuesday. “I filed a DCS hotline referral. That night, the referral was screened out at the local level in Madison County, and we received an email from the children’s mother about two hours later stating that they had received the report, so it was a breach of confidentiality with local DCS. The children’s mother said they were going to read it and decide what to do next.”
“We’ve been recording the four children, who are minors, for the past three-and-a-half or four years with them discussing different physical abuses, drugs in the home, fear of their mother dying based on the fact that she is constantly sick in her room. EMS has been called multiple times to the house, etc.,” the father continued. “Toward the end of last year, one of the children started saying that he is ‘afraid to have XXXXXXX’s hair in his mouth,’ ‘spitting in XXXXXXX’s face’ and talking about things like ‘kissing like you’re married.’ In addition to that, the children described physical assaults.”
“He said he was too shy to share the rest” of the story, the father’s fiancée continued the narrative. “We were very concerned, because this boy has been singled out by this man, and he is the one who’s always claiming that he’s being thrown, being squeezed, being hurt. So when we dropped off the children, XXXXXX made them aware, and then we couldn’t talk to the children for two days. Finally he got them on the phone — this call was recorded also — and the mom was in the background yelling and the call was hung up. So XXXXXX called the police to do a welfare check, because we were very afraid that once we let them know what we knew, the children would be penalized.
“We received three calls back-to-back where XXXXXX (the father) was threatened immediately,” the father’s fiancée continued. “The mother was furious, telling him, ‘If you ever call the cops again, we are going to have you thrown in jail.’ They told him this twice. After that, XXXXXX filed a report with DCS.
“In the state of Tennessee, you have to go through the hotline. Basically, they look at everything to determine whether or not there is valid information to warrant a visit. At the same time, the way it works is that the county gets the information. I don’t know if it’s an email that comes through that says there’s a referral. XXXXXX received an email from the DCS system saying that they closed his referral that evening at 9:30 p.m. At 11:29, he received an email from the children’s mother, who then referenced the confidential report and said they were going to review that.”
“We had already been threatened, so that began the whole cover-up,” she continued. “XXXXXX was supposed to have the children for Christmas, but their mother gave them to him for Thanksgiving. On the heels of the DCS report, she gave him the children early, and over the course of the next week and a half, they cleaned up their house, changed the front door, which hadn’t worked; XXXXXX had sent emails saying it was a fire hazard because it didn’t work. Well, they changed that, cleaned up the yard, and said they had to get video-cameras because they were fearful of XXXXXX.”
On Tuesday evening, The Post & Email reported its attempt to reach Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s press secretary about the matter because of the stonewalling the father has received at both the local and state levels.
In mid-August, the father was barred from seeing or communicating with his ex-wife, her husband, and the children through “protective orders” issued through the General Sessions court clerk, Kathy Blount, which lack certain information, including a notary’s stamp.
The father believes that the misspelling of last names is a frequently-used technique by Madison County officials which in the case of his children extends to the DCS in Nashville. In fact, the father was told by DCS spokeswoman Tammy Feldman that after he notified the agency of his concerns, a file was opened under his misspelled last name.
The father alleges that Madison County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Sgt. TJ King, Blount, former Assistant District Attorney General Rolf Hazlehurst, and former District Attorney General James G. Woodall have participated in altering names with the intention of creating an “underground” document trail to use against unwitting victims. While the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (TAOC) spells the former ADAG’s name “Hazelhurst,” The Post & Email has viewed official documents showing both that and “Hazlehurst” as the correct spelling of the former official’s last name.
The TAOC indicates that Woodall, who is no longer the Madison County District Attorney General, is also known as “Jerry.”
As of Thursday morning, the father asserted that, “So far I have been told there was no case, there was a referral with a different name spelling, there was a case with a different spelling of name (which means there is not a case), there was a ‘drug case’ opened with a different spelling of a name, it is not a drug case but an assessment. We were told all of these things and can’t get a straight answer – also no opportunity still – since 8/6/19 to give information to an investigator or case worker. As the father I am stating a case has not been opened because of all of this.”
DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols referred The Post & Email’s request for comment Tuesday evening to Feldman, who responded on Wednesday with, “Commissioner Nichols forwarded your below e-mail on to our DCS Customer Relations Unit for review and response. Please know that the Department of Children’s Services is unable to comment on any matters related to a specific child protective services investigation. Such information is confidential by both state and federal law and regulation.”
On August 14, the father traveled three hours from Jackson to Nashville and met with Feldman, who told him she was unable to assist.
The father has provided recordings of his interactions with local, regional and state DCS officials, three of whom, Crystal Jones and her two supervisors, hung up on him.
On August 23 and 26, the father was told by MCSO dispatcher Jennifer Brandon that welfare checks had been conducted on his children, but he discovered several days later that it would have been impossible given that the children were out-of-state in what their father claims was a “kidnapping.” “The sheriffs would not allow me to report this. In fact, the report they filed which was recorded is not accurate; they falsified my report,” he said.
In an email sent August 29 to Madison County Sheriff John Mehr, the father wrote:
I called for a wellness visit because I had a message they missed school for a second day in a row – 3 total in the first 2 weeks of school. Sgt King in a later audio will verify that nobody will “lay eyes” (he confirms this constitutes a wellness welfare visit) on the boys on 8/23 and 8/26. Also, I felt threatened with arrest because Jennifer proceeded to mention violation of the unlawful PO’s filed against me. Did she make a mistake here since Sgt. King told me I had a valid reason for my call and warranted the wellness welfare request?
The oldest child is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the father said, and “his audio is one of the main reports of abuse being suppressed.” He further told us on Friday morning:
On August 14, I called in to DCS and was transferred to Crystal Jones, who at that time I was being told was the case worker. I was told it was a drug case or general assessment and it was in my misspelled last name. That day, Crystal Jones said, “I talked to the boys.” and I said, “Where did you talk to them?” and she said, “At the school.” She also said she spoke with three of my children. I asked, “When?” and she said, “Today.”
Between August 14 and September 3, I didn’t hear anything, so I called the school on September 3 and asked them in a recorded conversation if someone by the name of Crystal Jones had come in to speak with my children. The first response they gave me was, “No, nobody signed in from the 14th to the 19th by the name of Crystal Jones. I asked the secretary, “Are there records?” and she said, “No, there are no records in the files.”
Immediately after that, I called and left the superintendent, Ray Washington, a message. He reached back out and said he was going into a meeting. I then received a phone call from Corey Currie, director of student services for Madison County Public Schools. So I had conversations with the superintendent, the principal and the director of student services and made them all aware that I had concerns about Crystal Jones, that prior to my speaking with them on the third, I had called in to DCS headquarters and requested an investigation and that she not be a part of this situation with my children because there were things that were sketchy and I didn’t like what was happening.
On Thursday, I had been pressing the principal, the superintendent, and the director of student services for information. They told me they would give me any updates and that everyone was on notice. Because I’d been waiting so long, yesterday I basically said, “If you don’t give me the information, it’s your choice, but this is child abuse and a federal crime, so you guys make the decision on what you want to do.”
Then the principal sent an email that said that Crystal Jones did sign in on the 14th of August and met with two of the three children. So the first thing they told me was that she didn’t sign in, and then, after a hold, the lady said, “We do see that she signed in on a different book.” But there were supposedly no sign-outs, nobody saw it, nobody could give me any information.
Yesterday they said they do have a record of Crystal signing in and meeting with two of the three boys, and now they tell me she came back on September 6th. The whole time, I’ve had the ombudsman, I’ve sent all of this to [DCS Commissioner] Jennifer Nichols, everybody has all of the information and the hangups from Crystal Jones, and this person is allowed to stay on after she’s shown complete negligence. I was also threatened with having the case closed because I wanted to speak to a supervisor because of their “incompetent and unpolished leadership.” To this point, I still have not been able to provide information to DCS on my kids’ situation, and my fiancee’s information as a witness was not tied to whatever case they’re working.
The other thing I want to make a note of is the principal, because I asked Crystal specifically in her response to spell the names. The original DCS file that Crystal Jones has been working, that Roger Webster, the regional manager, confirmed in audio, has my misspelled last name. How did Crystal know to go to the school and ask for a file under the correct name? The last name on the report that Crystal is working isn’t the same as the children she interviewed. What if she spoke to the wrong children? if she was talking about abuse to the wrong child, that would be a problem.
Any report Crystal has would not have shown the correct name, and they could be using this technicality to play both sides.
Corey assured me, and I have it recorded, that he would make me aware of anything that happened, if anyone came – police, sheriff, police, DCS – that I need to be notified, but nobody notified me that Crystal Jones went back on the 6th.
I presume that the last name was corrected and she went back and this is part of the cover-up. But still, she lied to me that she spoke with all three children. In the recording of the 14th of August, she told me, “Your boys are definitely safe,” and I said to her, “You can’t say that; you don’t have all the information” because she hadn’t spoken with me, the oldest child, the mother or stepfather. I asked her, “Why are you telling me this when you don’t have the information?”
It’s the same playbook that Sgt. King was using through the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and to write these fake incident reports.
The father asked Gerald Papica, the Ombudsman Program Director for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, to open an investigation into DCS. According to the agency’s website, “You should call the ombudsman when you believe the action, inaction, or decision of DCS, service providers and/or caregivers of out-of-home care (including TennCare providers, schools, residential and non-residential care facilities, foster care, detention facilities, public agencies, and social services agencies operated by either the state or one of its contractors) has adversely affected the health, safety, welfare, or rights of children and youth in state custody, or their families.”