Official: Lakin criminal, civil cases are firsts

By Lawrence Smith | Aug 8, 2008


POINT PLEASANT – Both a civil and criminal case arising from a former maintenance supervisor having a sexual relationship with an inmate at the Lakin Correctional Center for Women are the first since the facility opened in 2003 and a law passed penalizing sex with inmates, a top correctional official said.

Last week, The West Virginia Record reported on a civil suit filed by Kristin Childs, a former Lakin inmate, in Kanawha Circuit Court. In her complaint and suit filed with the assistance of Paul Streobel, with the Charleston law firm of Stroebel and Johnson, Childs alleged that David W. McCormick, a Lakin employee, forced her into having sex with him.

Despite asking for a transfer from McCormick's supervision, Childs alleges it did not occur until she agreed to have sex with him. As a result, Childs became pregnant.

In her suit, Childs maintains she did not report the incident to prison authorities for fear it would hurt her chances of parole. She is asking for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for lost wages, medical expenses, expenses in raising a child, court costs and emotional and mental distress.

Though Lakin is located in Mason County, the suit was filed in Kanawha County since Childs named the state Division of Correction as a co-defendant. Kanawha County has jurisdiction over civil suits involving all state agencies.

However, records in Mason County show McCormick, 40, of Leon, was charged criminally for his act. Following an interview with him on January 23, West Virginia State Police Cpl. C.K. Zerkle arrested McCormick a week later on one charge of having sex with an inmate.

Records show during the interview, Zerkle "obtained a complete confession from the accused in that during questioning he did in fact have sexually intercourse with the inmate while employed and working at the correctional facility." Though records are unclear if there was only one or multiple acts, Childs said she had intercourse with McCormick, a.k.a. "Manny", "between 10/10/07 and 10/15/07."

Following his arrest, McCormick was released on $5,000 bond.

McCormick, records show, asked to be appointed an attorney. In the financial affidavit he filed, he listed is income as $932 a month from Lakin.

According to the state Auditor's Office, McCormick's yearly salary was $25,128.68.

After Michael Eachus, of the Gallipolis, Ohio, law firm of Eachus and Finley, was appointed to represent him, McCormick waived his right to preliminary hearing in Mason Magistrate Court on Feb. 19.

Two months later on April 18, Mason Prosecutor Damon B. Morgan indicted McCormick on one charge of information of having sex with an inmate.

Records show on June 16, McCormick agreed to plea guilty to the charge. Though it is unclear if there is any connection, but June 16 is the same day Childs filed her suit.
Upon accepting his plea, Judge David W. Nibert scheduled McCormick for sentencing on Monday, Aug. 18 at 9:30 a.m.
In West Virginia, sex with an inmate carries a prison term of 1-5 years, and maximum $5,000 fine.

Law passed for such an occurrence

Commissioner of Corrections Jim Rubenstein said Childs civil suit is the first involving Lakin. Because the state now had all-female prison, the state legislature made it a criminal offense for any correctional employee to have sex with and inmate.
Prior to construction of Lakin, all of West Virginia's female felony inmates were housed at the Federal Correctional Center for Women in Alderson. Though incidents of sexual intercourse did take place between prison employees and inmates at other facilities, Rubenstein said the only recourse taken was disciplinary action, which included termination.
Especially at Lakin, Rubenstein said from the time an employee is hired and during all initial and recurring training, it is stressed there is to be no sexual relations with inmates. However, since employee-inmate sex was able to take place at the male prisons, it was bound to happen at Lakin, which is the reason for the law, Rubenstein said.
"We certainly don't condone this," Rubenstein said. "We've got large facilities and individuals have a way to get into these types of relationships."
"When this legislation was put into place it sent a very strong message," he added.
Since the incident, records show Childs was granted parole on March 19. Apparently, she is from the eastern panhandle as she was convicted on May 23, 2005 in Berkeley Circuit Court on count each of petit larceny, forging and uttering and manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance.
The Record attempted to get a comment from Stroebel if Childs would be making an appearance at McCormick's sentencing. However, he did not return repeated telephone calls.
Rubenstein said neither he nor any DoC officials would be present for McCormick's sentencing.
"I think the records speaks for itself," he said.

Mason Circuit Court, Case No. 08-F-101 (McCormick criminal)
Kanawha Circuit Court, Case No 08-C-1183 (Childs civil)

More News

The Record Network