PICKENS COUNTY — South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has been brought in to investigate allegations of a Pickens County Prison inmate sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy while on work detail at Mile Creek Park in Six Mile.
According to a recent civil complaint filed in the 13th Judicial Court of Common Pleas against Pickens County, the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and Duke Energy on Nov. 20 by Jeff and Tamra Hawkins, inmates were left unsupervised and in proximity with minor children who were employed by or attending Mile Creek Park with their families.
The couple allege their minor son, identified as “S.H.,” was “was forced and coerced by the inmates into using drugs, including marijuana, methamphetamines, and other drugs, and was forced and coerced into performed non-consensual sex acts with the inmates,” the documents read.
Additionally, the complaint asserts the “top-ranking County employee at the park” was aware drugs were being used.
They are suing, citing gross negligence and violation of civil rights.
In a Dec. 11 release, Pickens County Sheriff Rick Clark stated he made the decision to request SLED’s involvement.
“Sheriff Clark was approached by the parents of a sixteen year old son in September of this year at which time the Sheriff’s Office first learned of allegations that their son had been sexually assaulted while working part-time during the summer months at Mile Creek Park,” the release stated. “Preliminary information given to the Sheriff at that time indicated that the activity occurred at the park while the alleged victim was assigned to a work detail alongside an inmate from the Pickens County Prison.”
PCSO officials also state just days following the initial complaint by the parents, the Sheriff’s Office was requested by the family’s attorney to temporarily suspend the criminal investigation for “personal reasons.”
“In late November, the Sheriff’s Office was informed that the family of the victim wished to proceed with the investigation and on Dec. 4, 2017, detectives with the Sheriff’s Office were able to interview the alleged victim for the first time,” documents read. “Since that interview, the Sheriff’s Office has continued to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegations and have determined that the case does contain basic information that would merit an in-depth investigation to determine what, if any, criminal violations may have occurred.”
This week, PCSO officials received confirmation from SLED that the agency had accepted the investigation.
Sheriff’s detectives have already started to engage in conversations with SLED agents to facilitate the transfer of all information to SLED, officials said.
“This case contains allegations involving a juvenile that was working at a county facility in the presence of other county employees from departments within Pickens County Government,” said Clark. “A former inmate from the Pickens County Prison/Stockade is being accused of physically assaulting the sixteen year old while both were assigned to a work detail.
“Though, I do not manage, supervise or have any authority over any of the potential witnesses or the former inmate that has been identified by the alleged victim, I feel that it would be improper for the Sheriff’s Office to proceed any further with this investigation due to our relationship with those departments and any of their employees.”
The Sheriff said as is the case with any allegation of criminal conduct, PCSO’s first obligation is to ensure that the investigation is conducted “in a fair and impartial manner.”
“It is for this reason that I feel compelled to ask for outside assistance from a neutral and detached agency to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” said Clark.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.