Guard at Missouri women’s prison sexually assaulted inmate over 52 times: lawsuit
- Katie Moore
- February 21, 2020
- The Kansas City Star
A former guard at a Missouri women’s prison has been accused by a fifth woman who says the guard sexually assaulted her more than 52 times.
The woman filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Missouri against Edward Bearden, a former guard at Chillicothe Correctional Center, about 120 miles northeast of Kansas City.
Bearden was employed by the prison system from November 2008 to September 2018, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections. Five separate civil cases have been lodged against him, but no criminal charges have been filed.
The FBI and the Department of Justice have been conducting an investigation of Chillicothe Correctional Center where Bearden and other corrections officers were accused of dozens of assaults, rape and harassment. As many as nine women have also reportedly alleged misconduct by a mental health counselor at the prison.
The Star generally does not publish the names of sex crime victims without their permission.
Jenifer Snow is one of the attorneys working on the civil lawsuits.
“I think there is a systematic issue in that prison specifically, and I think it is not being addressed and I don’t know how many lawsuits it’s going to take for people to take it seriously,” Snow said. “It blows my mind.”
According to the latest lawsuit, the woman was imprisoned at Chillicothe for a nonviolent offense from May 2015 to November 2017.
After she was accepted into a cosmetology program in October 2016, she was tasked with retrieving cleaning supplies from a storage closet.
Bearden followed her into the closet and forced her to perform oral sex, the lawsuit alleges.
The assaults continued in the same manner for the duration of the one-year cosmetology program, according to the lawsuit, which also said the woman’s roommates noticed bruises on her that looked like hand prints.
The four other lawsuits recounted similar circumstances including assaults in utility closets, a laundry room and other areas where no surveillance cameras were present.
One woman, Karen Backues Keil, said Bearden raped her more than 20 times. When Keil reported the assaults to her mental health counselor John Thomas Dunn, he also sexually assaulted her.
In a case not related to Keil, Dunn pleaded guilty in 2018 to sexual conduct with a prisoner. He was sentenced to probation.
Jesse Lerner-Kinglake, a spokesman for Just Detention International, said accountability lies with leadership in the state prison system.
“It seems that there are accountability issues and that leadership needs to take a real hard, close look in the mirror and figure out how did this happen?” he said. “That is five women who had to endure potentially life-shattering violence against them and it’s the job of the leaders of that facility and institution to stop it.”
Anne Precythe, director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
As head of the department, she is responsible for the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a federal law created to reduce abuse, the lawsuit said.
A 2019 PREA report showed 33 allegations of staff-on-offender abuse at Chillicothe. Three cases were unsubstantiated, 14 were unfounded and 16 remained pending during the audit.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which represents Bearden and Precythe, declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The FBI referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District, who declined to comment.
Originally posted here