DHHR, children's home hit with sexual abuse lawsuit

CHARLESTON - A Princeton mother is suing on behalf of her two children claiming that they were molested while in the care of the Children's Home Society of West Virginia.

Because of the nature of the allegations, a woman identified only as Laura R. charges in a lawsuit filed March 24 in Kanawha Circuit Court that the man given the assignment of driving the children to and from visits with their mother was sexually molesting them for several months.

She also lists the Department of Health and Human Resources as defendants, as the department was awarded temporary custody of the children and contracted the task of finding a foster home to the Children's Home Society.

"In Jan. 2001, Laura R. began to suspect that the plaintiffs were being sexually abused either in their foster home or by other representatives, employees, agents or servants of Defendant Children's Home Society," the complaint says.

"She reported her suspicions to Defendant DHHR but no action was taken other than a cursory medical examination. Neither Defendant in this case undertook a serious investigation of Laura R.'s claim."

John Ray, who is facing criminal charges in Mercer County, is the alleged molester.

The trouble started on July 17, 2000, when an incident of domestic violence resulted in the arrest of Laura R.'s husband, Donnie. Four months later, he was indicted for wanton endangerment, kidnapping and domestic violence. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and domestic violence and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The lawsuit adds, "Because of the danger created by the relationship between Laura R. and Donnie Wayne R., on or about Nov. 20, 2000, the Mercer County Circuit Court granted Defendant DHHr's petition allowing it to take immediate custody of the Plaintiffs."

The children were put in the care of the Children's Home Society, and Laura R. voiced her concerns three months later, the lawsuit says.

It adds that when no action was taken, Ray continued to drive the children to and from visitation for seven months until they were returned to Laura R.'s custody in August, 2001.

"There is currently a criminal action pending in the Mercer County Circuit Court relating to John Ray's sexual abuse of the plaintiffs and several other minor children who, at the time of their abuse, were under the care, custody and control of the defendants," the complaint says.

The plaintiffs are represented by Robert Warner and are seeking compensatory, punitive and general damages. Judge Charlie King has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 06-C-567

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