August 2018 Editorial Winner

Caring and saving a life
Mike McCormick, Tri-County Herald 

A 15-year-old Meeker teenager is alive today only because some people were concerned enough about him to notify authorities.
The youth, identified only as JJ, remains in Children’s Hospital where he has been for three weeks. After law enforcement authorities found him nearly starved to death, doctors told them in another week the youth most likely would have died.
His parents and two other adults face felony charges.
Each of those counts carries a maximum of life in prison and each is classified as 85 percent crimes.
That means if any of the four are convicted, whatever the sentence any of them might receive he or she must serve 85 percent of the time.
First Assistant District Attorney Adam Panter said at the time charges were filed, “I want to stress that each of these are very serious charges under Oklahoma law and the most serious charges we could present under Oklahoma law.”
Though apparently some people have inquired about attempted murder charges, Panter has responded there is no attempted murder charge allowed in state statutes.
The Assistant DA told us “a child’s life is being saved here because of a person’s concern and bringing it to our attention. Too often we have to deal with after the fact and it’s too late.”
Truly, it’s people who cared enough about JJ who should be credited with helping save his life. It’s because they had the gumption to stand up and notify authorities that something was terribly wrong in this kid’s life.
We were told by someone who had taught this young teen, before he was jerked out of school by his parents, of her concern for him and the concern others at the school had shown for JJ.
She and others first contacted DHS in March of 2016 because of their concern for JJ. They had purchased shoes and a coat for the teen because had no winter coat and no soles for his shoes. She mentioned he’d been hoarding food in his backpack from the school cafeteria.
All these were signs of concern, so it was brought to the attention of authorities.
Panter pointed out another startling fact. “Pottawatomie and Lincoln Counties are ground zero for child abuse and homicide.”
He hopes this case can serve as an example of what prevention can mean. So do we.
We are aware of at least three child abuse cases, each that led to a homicide, with those murder charges pending in the two counties.
According to an affidavit filed by investigators in charge of this case, the adult occupants of the residence where JJ was believed to reside had barred access to DHS and the teen’s safety couldn’t be assessed.
Citizens do not have to cooperate with DHS if they so choose. There is no legal requirement to do so.
But, if law enforcement officers conduct a child welfare check, and believe a child is in immediate danger or suffering from abuse, they can legally and immediately place that child into protective custody.
The abuse detailed in the affidavit is horrendous.
The teen hadn’t been allowed to leave the property for two years, he was only allowed in the house to use the bathroom, had several broken bones and doctors dug shotgun pellets out of a leg. The dad reportedly had shot the kid with bird shot some time in the past.
If there was a kid who could not defend himself, it was JJ.
Maybe JJ’s case will serve as a stark example that it’s any of us who can help prevent child abuse or any other type of abuse by being more aware of what is taking place around us. We must be willing to step up and notify those who can do something about it.
JJ might not be alive today if those who cared enough hadn’t stepped up and done something about it.

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