Polk County seeing payoff of sex crimes crackdown

Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon
Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon
Memorial Health System of East Texas Chief Nursing Officer Norma Sanford
Memorial Health System of East Texas Chief Nursing Officer Norma Sanford

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email

LIVINGSTON, TX (KTRE) - Polk County prosecutors are fed up.

Matthew Eppler is serving 40 years. Bruce Martin, 18 years. Fifty years for John Ogletree. And now life for David Rowell. These men, all convicted of sex crimes in the last six months. They're a product of the Polk County District Attorney's new approach to sex crimes.

"I think we realize that we needed this multi-disciplinary collaboration to better address these types of crimes," District Attorney Lee Hon said.

Hon says it's a collaborative effort between law enforcement and local agencies that really just began a few years ago, but he says now they're starting to see it pay off.

"It's nice to just be able to point to these verdicts from juries and say this type of behavior is not going to be tolerated," Hon said. "Our community is just fed up with it. The other way that it helps us is that when these large jury verdicts, the defendants that are charged with these offenses are more likely to want to work their cases out."

From 2007 to 2008, seven adult sexual assault cases were added to the DA's caseload and 26 were added the next year. When it comes to child cases, 34 were added from 2008 to 2009. That's up from just four the year before. Hon says the quality of the cases have improved. Now instead of driving out of county, victims are able to have sexual assault nurse exams performed in Livingston.

"We do have a 72 to 96-hour time frame that we're able to collect forensic specimens that we need, but from a quality and a care standpoint, obviously the quicker that you could get your forensic information collected and preserved the better off that information would be," said Memorial Health System of East Texas Chief Nursing Officer Norma Sanford.

Hon said agencies are meeting at least four times a year to exchange information about these crimes. He hopes the new approach will help deter an old problem.

Hon said forensic interviews of child victims should be conducted within the county in the next few months.

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