Convicted Putnam sex offender a potential witness in Kanawha sex abuse suit

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 28, 2008

WINFIELD – Along with defending himself in a lawsuit filed by his alleged victim, a Putnam County man is being asked to testify in another sexual abuse civil suit in Kanawha County.

Last week, The West Virginia Record reported on the lawsuit filed by Hernshaw residents James and Debbie Green against Chesapeake Apostolic Church, Upper Kanawha Valley Christian School, P. D. Priddy and Timothy C. Edmonds. In their complaint and suit, the Greens alleged that Edmonds sexually abused their then 16-year-old daughter in 2006 while she attended UKVSC, which the church oversees.

According to court records, the Greens allege that CAC, and its pastor, Priddy, were negligent in hiring Edmonds as an assistant youth pastor. Specifically, they allege CAC and Priddy, who is Edmonds' father-in-law, knew of his "prior sexually deviant behavior ... at a previous congregation" but did not investigate the claims.

Though it is not immediately clear, but a deposition taken of Edmonds on Nov. 27 indicate the prior behavior from the previous congregation came from Hometown Apostolic Church. In his deposition, Edmonds, who asserted his Fifth Amendment rights during much of the questioning due to a pending criminal investigation, referred to HAC's pastor, William D. Carter, and his wife, Dixie as liars, and accused William Carter of using people.

According to court records, the criminal charge against Edmonds, sexual abuse by a parent or guardian, was dismissed the day he gave his deposition. Both he and the Greens name the Carters as fact witnesses.

Another fact witness Edmonds names is Paul E. Casto of Hometown. Court records show Casto was convicted last year of sexually abusing one of his teenage relatives and neighbors, who is now suing him in Putnam Circuit Court.

Emotional distress

According to court records, Sultana T. Barnett, 19, filed suit against Casto on May 24. In her complaint and suit, filed with the assistance of Paul M. Strobel, with the Charleston law firm of Strobel and Johnson, Barnett maintains that in February 2006, Casto inflicted emotional distress on her through various acts of outrageous conduct.

"Plaintiff was photographed, assaulted and suffered damages and losses including, but not limited to pain and suffering, humiliation and emotional anguish and bills," Strobel said in the suit.

According to court records, West Virginia State Police Cpl. S.E. Wolfe and Trooper R.A. Phillips filed a criminal complaint in Putnam Magistrate Court against Casto on Feb. 10, 2006. In their complaint, Wolfe and Phillips said Casto led Barnett, his second cousin who was 17 at the time, into the garage of his home, locked the doors and ordered her to remove parts of her clothing.

When she failed to comply with his demands, Casto forcibly removed Barnett's clothing, and took sexually explicit pictures of her. After kissing Barnett on various parts of her body, Casto threatened to harm her if she told anybody.

Later that day, Casto was arrested and charged with sexual assault in the first degree, use of minors in filming sexually explicit conduct and employment or use of minors to assist in sexually explicit conduct. On Feb. 11, Casto was released on $30,000 bond.

Five months later, court records show, Casto was indicted by the Putnam grand jury on one count of sexual abuse by a parent or guardian and one count of first degree sexual abuse. At his arraignment on Aug. 26, 2006, Casto pled not guilty to the charges.

A month later, Casto's legal counsel, Gregory Campbell of Charleston, filed a motion to dismiss the abuse by parent or guardian charge based on the failure of the prosecution to show that a sexual assault occurred. Also, Campbell moved that any evidence the State Police obtained in their search of Casto's residence be suppressed based on the insufficiency of the search warrant.

On Jan. 12, 2007, Putnam Circuit Judge N. Edward Eagloski denied Campbell's motions.

A month later as trial was slated to begin, Casto entered into a plea agreement. In exchange for the prosecution dismissing the sexual abuse by parent or guardian charge, Casto would plead no contest to third degree sexually abuse.

On April 26, Eagloski sentenced Casto to an indeterminate term of 1-5 years in prison. On both July 9 and Aug. 24, Campbell moved that Eagloski reduce Casto's sentence based on the fact that he was treated for bleeding ulcers in this stomach and esophagus on June 24, and his wife, Judith, was undergoing treatment at Duke University Medical Center for Lou Gehrig's disease.

"The Defendant has strong family ties in Putnam County and during the course of his life, has been active in his community and church," Campbell said in his motions.

However, court records show Eagloski has yet to rule on either motion.

According to the West Virginia Department of Corrections' Web site, Casto is slated for a parole hearing on April 29. Currently, he is incarcerated at the St. Marys Correctional Center in Pleasants County.

Non-responsive to suit

Because of his incarceration, Stobel petitioned the court for the appointment of a guardian ad litem for Casto on July 18. On Sept. 28, Eagloski granted that request, and appointed Matthew Victor of the Charleston law firm of Victor, Victor and Helgoe to assist in Casto's legal defense.

Court records show Strobel served Victor with the suit on Nov. 29. On Jan. 23, Strobel petitioned the court for default judgment based on Casto's failure "to timely file and answer or any other pleadings as of the date of this motion."

According to court records, Eagloski has yet to rule on Strobel's motion. Victor was not immediately available for comment.

Likewise, The Record contacted Edmonds' attorney George Joseph for a comment on calling Casto as a witness. Joseph said he preferred to decline comment "at this time."

Putnam Circuit Court, Case Nos. 07-C-146 and 06-F-61

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