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Grand jury indicts two accused of starving children on several counts of child abuse

February 16, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Berkeley County Circuit Court grand jury impaneled this week indicted a Martinsburg-area couple on charges of starving two young children in their custody and locking them in an unfinished basement.

Karen S. Boback, 44, and Jesse A. Lafferty, 33, both were indicted on two counts of child abuse causing serious bodily injury, two counts of child abuse causing bodily injury, two counts of gross child neglect creating substantial risk of bodily injury or death and one count of conspiracy, according to the indictments.

The alleged crimes against Lafferty's biological children, who are now 4 and 5 years old, happened between January and August 2010, when the couple was arrested, the indictments said.

Boback and Lafferty, of 292 Labonte Drive, were being held Wednesday at Eastern Regional Jail, according to jail and court records.

Boback, Lafferty's girlfriend, told police that Lafferty allegedly punished the children by withholding food from them over a 24-hour period, making them take cold showers, spanking them with a belt and forcing them to spend the night in the home's unfinished basement, according to court records.

One of the children was forced to sleep on a thin piece of carpet on the concrete floor of the basement, according to the indictment.

A West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources spokesman has said the children were placed in state custody.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Wednesday that the childrens' health "has greatly improved."

Also indicted on Wednesday, according to Games-Neely's office, were:

• Derrick L. Fillinger, 26, who is incarcerated, and Jo Ann Bryan, 23, of 50 Wagner Drive, Martinsburg, on charges they abused and neglected a 3-month-old boy in October 2010. The child was found with bone fracture in his left leg and bruising on multiple areas of his body, according to indictments handed up by the grand jury and court records.

 The couple were both indicted on single counts of child abuse causing serious bodily injury, gross child neglect creating substantial risk of serious body injury, child abuse causing bodily injury and conspiracy.

• Rebecca J. Ferguson, 29, a former Berkeley County teacher charged with beating her biological children with broom handles, metal coat hangers and other objects, on 11 counts of child abuse resulting in injury and eight counts of identity theft, according to her indictment.

The identity theft charges stem from allegations that she took the identity of her oldest child for financial gain, according to court records.

 Ferguson was a seventh-grade language arts teacher at Spring Mills Middle School, had taught at Musselman High School and was employed with the school system for four years before resigning on Sept. 17, 2010.

• Samuel K. Bunner, 39, a former American Red Cross worker, on one count of embezzlement and one count of falsifying accounts while he worked for the nonprofit emergency response organization.

Police have alleged that Bunner "cashed out" prepaid debit cards between August 2009 and February 2010 that were supposed to be given to disaster victims, according to court records.

The transactions were concealed with fictitious documentation of victims who did not exist and natural disasters that did not occur, according to court records.

An indictment merely reflects a grand jury's conclusion that there is evidence the accused committed the crime or crimes in question.

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