EXCLUSIVE: Defendant named in Mingo sex abuse scandal tells her side of the story
Hester Keatley was a guidance counselor at Burch Middle when girls started coming forward, saying they were sexually abused by two boys at the middle school. She has been named a defendant in an injunction filed by the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
She is also running for the Mingo County School Board and will be on the ballot Tuesday during the West Virginia primary election.
On Friday, she told us her side of the story. Keatley said she had no idea she was named as a defendant in the injunction until her children called and told her.
"I did not cover up anything,” she said.
She's was in Florida and spoke with me over the phone. She said she still doesn't know all of the details in the court documents. She said, "This should have been taken care of a year ago."
She said her job at the school was temporary. Around this time last year, the regular guidance councilor was on maternity leave, so for four weeks, Keatley filled in. During that time, she said at least two girls approached her, saying they had been sexually abused. She said she did her job and took their statements.
She said, "When I had those statements completed, I turned them over to the principal. That was the last I had anything to do with it because the regular councilor came back."
The principal at the time, she said, was Jada Hunter. She said she followed the state's mandatory reporting law from there. "I know all about that, but when we have something like that, we must report it to our principal and it's their responsibility to report it to the higher authorities,” she said.
However, according to state code, Keatley was required to not only notify her immediate supervisor but also the state police or another investigative agency in the area. The injunction Morrisey filed claims no one including the principal, ever reported the alleged abuse to police.
I asked, "Were you under the impression that she reported everything to the authorities?" Keatley said, "I'm sure she did what she was supposed to do.” I asked, "When you hear that nobody did report it to authorities, what goes through you mind?" She said, "Well, I never did hear that."
She said she has something in common with the victims in the case. "They'll be permanently scarred and I've been permanently scarred and so has my family because this is untrue. My responsibility was to talk to the girls, get their statements and then I handed those statements over to the principal. That's the extent of my involvement in this."
She said if it's true that no one at the school went to the authorities, they should be punished. "They should be dealt with, whatever that policy is and I'm not sure what that policy is. I hate that this happened to those kids.”
A criminal investigation is ongoing. So far, no formal charges have been filed.
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