PARKERSBURG - A child neglect and abuse case from Wood County Circuit Court was overturned by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Friday.
In 2012, Wood County Circuit Court Judge J.D. Beane dismissed a petition for abuse and neglect against the father of two juveniles. At the time when the case was in court, F.S. was an 11-year-old girl and Z.S. was a 15-yearold boy.
"The underlying abuse and neglect petition was based upon allegations of sexual abuse by the father against F.S.," the court wrote. "The petitioners contend that the circuit court erred by failing to find that clear and convincing evidence of sexual abuse was presented."
Based upon the Supreme Court's review of the appendix record, arguments of counsel and applicable precedent, the justices reversed the ruling of the circuit court and remand this case for further proceedings.
Court records stated the father was alleged to have repeatedly sexually abused and assaulted F.S.
"The petition asserted that the children had visited their father every other weekend subsequent to a 2006 divorce between the petitioners' parents," the court wrote. "The father had remarried in 2009, and his current wife has two daughters and one son. The three step-children also resided in the home when the petitioners visited. The petitioner, F.S., typically slept in a bedroom with the daughters, sharing a top bunk with a step-sister. Another step-sister slept in the bottom bunk in the same bedroom. The petitioner, Z.S. shared a bedroom with the son."
In response to these allegations of abuse, a Child Protective Services worker interviewed F.S. in August 2011. The child informed the social worker her father got in bed with her on several occasions.
In their opinion the justices stated abuse was evident and the circuit court made an error in dismissing the petition.
In a footnote the court stated the children should be considered abused children.
"Having determined that the facts support a finding that clear and convincing evidence of abuse was presented, the petitioners should be adjudicated as abused children," the justices wrote. "In the abuse and neglect setting, this Court has recognized the rights of children residing in the home, such the respondent's son, Z.S., even where he was not alleged to have been a victim."
In returning the case to the circuit court the Supreme Court said the matter should be expedited.
"Child abuse and neglect cases must be recognized as being among the highest priority for the courts' attention," the court stated. "Unjustified procedural delays wreak havoc on a child's development, stability and security."