KSP investigating  possibility of more  alleged victims

Jennifer Stacy, former director of the Mountain Comprehensive Care Center Therapeutic Foster Care Program, returns to a holding cell after a hearing in Floyd Circuit Court. A detective testified that she hit her children with both open hands and closed fists.

More details were released Thursday during a bond hearing for one of the Martin residents accused of abusing children in her care, with Kentucky State Police Det. Tiffany Bond testifying about some of the allegations against Jennifer Stacy, 43, and Thomas Stacy Jr., 46.

The couple, who live on Stephens Branch Road in Martin, each supervised a foster care program for Mountain Comprehensive Care Center for years. They were recently indicted on four first-degree criminal abuse charges and an assault charge. Thomas Stacy, was also indicted on four counts of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of sodomy.

In those indictments, the grand jury alleges that the couple abused or permitted the abuse of five children who were in their care at various times, with the alleged abuse stemming from 2008 until Jan. 24. All of the criminal abuse charges are alleged to have occurred to children who had been adopted by the couple.

Jennifer and Thomas Stacy are each being held on a $100,000 cash bond in the Floyd County Detention Center. Circuit Judge Johnny Ray Harris postponed the bond hearing for Thomas Stacy, reporting that they could not be represented by the same attorney.

In the bond hearing for Jennifer Stacy, Floyd County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brent Turner called Bond to the stand, asking her about the investigation that led up to the indictments. She explained that four children had undergone forensic interviews at the Big Sandy Child Advocacy Center, also known as Judi’s Place, and that the detective saw bruises on one of those children. She also reported that another alleged victim, who no longer lives in the Stacy home, corroborated statements made by those children. She said that alleged victim left the home because of the abuse.

She talked about evidence obtained from the home, including a broken back scratcher she said the children claimed to have been repeatedly beaten with, and cellphone videos taken by a child in the home.

“All four children in the home had a forensic interview at Judi’s Place, where they advised that Mrs. Stacy had hit them, open hand and closed fist. She had struck them with various items, like backscratchers in the home, and different random items,” Bond said.

She said the children suffered with welts, bruises and marks and claimed to have been struck anywhere from their head to their toes. She reported the children claimed that “numerous backscratchers had been broken over their heads or over their backs.”

Bond reported that social services had investigated numerous complaints about alleged abuse by the couple over a period of several years, but none of those allegations were substantiated. She said one of the couple’s children tried to capture the alleged abuse on video to prove it was occurring.

“So, there’s been numerous investigations done by social services on the Stacy family, and these were, didn’t have enough evidence to say abuse was actually occurring in the home, so (one of the children) used his cell phone to record some of the abuse that was going on,” Bond said.

She said he was trying to hide the cellphone so he wouldn’t get caught, and some of the video contains only audio recordings.

She said the videos only provided audio recordings of Jennifer Stacy, and there was a video of Thomas Stacy allegedly abusing children.

Bond said there was a “lot of screaming and cursing and within the videos you could hear smacks.”

“You could hear the children crying and screaming in the videos,” she said.

Bond testified that the couple denied the abuse. She said they claimed bruises on one of the children were bite marks from another child in the home. Bond said, however, that the child said the couple caused the bruises.

“They said that they had used a back scratcher to spank them. However, it was on their bottom, and that it didn’t leave any bruises or anything,” Bond said.

Bond also testified that Jennifer Stacy was unaware of the alleged sexual abuse occurring in the home. She also mentioned an alleged incident with a gun.

“The children in the home said that he has made threats to harm them, kill them and himself with that firearm,” Bond said.

Bond reported that the investigation into these allegations is ongoing and that the KSP is looking into the possibility that there are more victims.

The couple has fostered dozens of children since they started providing foster care in 2002.

Representing Jennifer Stacy, Neil Borders, directing attorney at the Prestonsburg Department of Public Advocacy, asked questions of Bond to emphasize that Jennifer Stacy could not be seen abusing children in the videos and that she had no significant criminal history.

He called Pretrial Officer Cody G. Johnson to the stand to explain the risk assessment used to determine a bond for Jennifer Stacy. He emphasized the study that was used to create the program, reporting that years of data was compiled on nearly 300,000 cases for the program.

The program used by the state to recommend bonds in criminal cases suggested that Jennifer Stacy be released on her own recognizance because she was assessed as having a low risk of reoffending and not returning to court.

In cross examination by Turner, however, Johnson confirmed that “almost no one” is assigned a high risk in that system and that it was “not uncommon” for people charged with murder to be assigned a low risk.

“We’d just ask that based on the charges and the fact that we have a numerous other potential victims or witnesses out there that are at risk of being harassed or tampered with if the defendant is out of jail, that some sort of appropriate cash bond be placed on this defendant,” Turner said.

Borders emphasized that the nature of the charges against her are only one of the things that should be considered in assessing bond, describing the purpose of a bond as being to ensure that the person charged does not reoffend and that he/she comes back to court.

“The commonwealth is looking at what might happen. But in this case, we’re looking a statistically and scientifically validated data, so we ask the court to take that into consideration, her how likely she is to reappear and to not re-offend,” he said.

He emphasized that only one child was bruised, that social services investigated the family “numerous times” and did not substantiate any abuse alleged and that there was no video recordings of Jennifer Stacy abusing the children.

“And furthermore, the only thing, as far as we can see right now, that they have is what might be her voice on audio,” Borders said. “They’re playing a game of connect the dots here, but it’s a long stretch to assume that because they heard her voice and they heard what sounded like somebody might be smacked around, that she was the one that done it. That’s a really big jump to make. And for all of those reasons, judge, we would ask the court to amend her bond to something more appropriate.”

Citing her lack of a criminal history, and her willingness to “abide by strict home incarceration,” Borders suggested home incarceration. He also asked Harris to not consider the sexual abuse charges that her husband faces.

Harris said his main concern was the safety of the children and other potential victims who have not come forward. He overruled Borders’ motion for a change in bond.

He scheduled another hearing for March 9, telling Borders that he may consider placing her on home incarceration at that time. He asked Turner to obtain information about the safety of the children and the safety of other potential victims who are located prior to that hearing.

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