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Woman charged with exploiting daughter, bigamy

June 23, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Chambersburg woman charged with three counts of bigamy and allowing her 11-year-old daughter to have sexual relations with an older juvenile waived her preliminary hearing Tuesday in Franklin County Central Court.

The 32-year-old woman, whose name is being withheld to protect the child's identity, is scheduled for arraignment in county court on Wednesday, Aug. 4, Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Bret Palmer said. She was charged Friday by Chambersburg police with bigamy along with sexual exploitation of a child, criminal conspiracy to statutory sexual assault and liability for the conduct of another person, according to the criminal complaint.

Police began investigating in April after Children and Youth Services said the child possibly was being subjected to sexual assaults, according to the affidavit of probable cause. Officials at the girl's elementary school told police she "discussed sexual activity like an adult to other children" and spoke of having a 19-year-old boyfriend.

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On June 5, police searched the mother's South Main Street apartment and the apartment where the boyfriend lived. In his apartment, where several other men also lived, police found photos of him with the girl, police alleged.

The mother, who was released on $60,000 bond, at first denied knowing of the relationship, but later said she knew "her daughter was involved with him sexually, but she had no control over her," police alleged in the affidavit.

The girl told police her mother encouraged the relationship and that she slept in his apartment for two months. "Her mother told her that it was the culture in Mexico for younger girls to see older men," according to the affidavit.

Palmer said the 17-year-old illegal alien is being held at a youth detention center, although there are questions about his age and identity because of forged documents.

"He gave us a birth certificate, if that's valid," Palmer said. She said the county's juvenile probation department is checking with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to verify his identity.

Palmer said the girl is in foster care.

During the investigation, police said they discovered the woman has been married four times since 1993, but had never gotten a divorce.

She married the first man in Winchester, Va., on Oct. 8, 1993, and later told him she got a divorce while he was in prison, police said. The man told police she never presented him with any proof of a divorce.

The woman later married a man now living in California, but she told police the marriage was annulled, according to the affidavit. The sister of the woman said she spoke with the man by phone and he told her they were never divorced, police said.

On Jan. 24, 2001, the woman married again in Martinsburg, W.Va., and lived with the man in Chambersburg until April of this year, police said. Although the woman and her children moved out, the man said "they had not divorced and had not planned to do so," police said.

During the search of her apartment, police found a marriage license for another man dated March 1 that was issued in Hampshire County, W.Va.

The charges involving the woman's conduct with her daughter are second-degree felonies with maximum sentences of 10 years in prison. The bigamy charges are second-degree misdemeanors, according to police.

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