Foster parents charged in alleged abuse of 3-year-old in Wayne County

Published: May. 26, 2016 at 8:47 PM EDT
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KENOVA, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A couple from Kenova is facing charges for alleged abuse and neglect of their 3-year-old foster son.

William and April Crisel, of Kenova, turned themselves in to West Virginia State Police Thursday.

According to the criminal complaint, the child was in the care of the Crisel's for about eight months.

"Children are the most innocent victims, especially the younger ones," said WVSP Corporal Marlene Moore, a trooper with the Crimes Against Children Unit. "A lot of times, they can't tell you, but we were lucky in this case he was able to articulate and tell us a little bit about what happened. Children are our future. Somebody's got to keep an eye on them and make sure they're safe, they're cared for and that they're in a good environment."

Both are facing felony charges. William is being charged with two felony counts of child abuse resulting in injury. April is being charged with two counts of child neglect.

Moore says there was a months-long investigation into the alleged abuse. She tells WSAZ the abuse was only discovered through visits to the doctor for illnesses and other medical issues.

According to the criminal complaint, the couple took the child to the hospital for a fever and burning during urination in February. At the hospital, the complaint says there was "significant bruising" on the boy's penis and a "protruding bruise" on the right side of his forehead as well as multiple scratches and bruises on other areas of his body.

The complaint says the Crisel's explained that dogs in the home caused the injuries. The Crisel's said that a dog had also bitten the boy's penis, according to the complaint.

While at the hospital, it was also reported that the boy had lost about five pounds from December of 2015 to February 16, 2016, according to the complaint.

After the injuries were discovered, the boy was admitted to the hospital, Child Protective Services (CPS) was notified, a worker took pictures of the injuries and the boy was placed in a new foster care home, according to the complaint.

Moore says she then received a referral from West Virginia's Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Institutional Investigative Unit regarding a potential child abuse case.

Moore says she subpoenaed several medical records for the toddler. Through those records, she says it revealed similar incidents to the one in February.

According to the criminal complaint, the couple took the child to the hospital on August 21, 2015 due to a complaint of "falling and bruising his head." The next day, he was taken back to the hospital for vomiting blood, the complaint says.

On September 8, 2015, the child was taken to the hospital for "bruising due to falling." The complaint continues to say that William Crisel said he tried to catch the boy as he was falling but the child hit his head on a toy, causing the injury.

The boy was again taken to the hospital on October 18, 2015, according to the complaint, for a complaint of "pinching his penis" until it was bleeding and bruised. The complaint says the Crisel's explained that the boy's injury was self-inflicted.

"Out of the many years that I've been on this unit, I have not seen that type of injury to be self-inflicted," said Moore. "I'm sure there have been injuries in that area before that have not been reported, but it's just very unusual."

The complaint alleges that the Crisel's did not report these injuries to NECCO, an agency that helps place children in foster homes, in a timely manner "per their policy."

Amy Kennedy-Rickman, Executive State Director of NECCO in West Virginia, tells WSAZ any time a foster child is injured, the parents should notify NECCO immediately. While Kennedy-Rickman could not comment on this specific case, she said the agency always fully cooperates with investigators when there are allegations of abuse.

"Our main goal is to protect children and we take that very seriously by following our processes and regulations and doing the full backgrounds on every home that we open," said Kennedy-Rickman.

Abraham Saad, an attorney representing the couple, tells WSAZ the and his co-defense attorney have proof that the injuries were reported in a timely manner and they plan to present that evidence in court. He alleges that Moore has lied to them and says he is eager to put her on the stand during trial.

"We've done a little digging ourselves and what we hope to show, and what I believe I can show, is we're going to distinguish the difference between an investigation and a witch hunt -- the search for truth and the search for humiliation," said Saad.

Investigators say the couple had another foster son, a one-year-old, who was also taken from the home, but investigators say that child did not show any signs of abuse.

The two children are in new foster homes.

Family members of the Crisel's were in the courtroom Thursday when the couple was arraigned. April's parents tell WSAZ the allegations sound nothing like their daughter and they believe she is evidence. Her mother tells us she cared for her two foster children and would never hurt them.

William's parents did not want to give a statement while their son's case goes through the legal process.

According to the criminal complaint, the Crisel's told officers that the injuries were caused by the boy pinching his own penis, a dog biting his penis and tripping falling while playing with his foster brother.

"I think that a jury can see for themselves what is truth and what is not," said Saad. "I look forward to the opportunity to represent them and to find the truth and to hold those accountable who will, I guess you could say, attempt to humiliate and attempt to make a point rather than simply do their job the way they're supposed to."

The child was taken to the Child Advocacy Center in Charleston and was interviewed by investigators. According to the criminal complaint, the boy disclosed that his foster dad, William Crisel, had "smacked" his penis.

The complaint continues, "The victim continued to have bruising all over his person and on his penis while in the care of the Crisel's without proper reporting and or care for the victim. The bruising is multiple and located in unusual places and explanations are not consistent."

Moore says CPS has visited the 3-year-old at his new foster home and they did not observe any visible bruising on his body.

William and April were released on bond Thursday.

A date for a preliminary hearing has not been set.