By CJ Baker
Powell Tribune Via Wyoming News Exchange 

Prosecutor: Allegations of assault at Cody school not supported by evidence

 

January 11, 2024



POWELL — In late October, Cody police received a report that a 5-year-old student at Livingston Elementary School had been sexually assaulted and beaten by fellow students on multiple occasions.

However , following an “extensive” investigation by police, Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric says he doesn’t believe the assaults actually happened. On Tuesday, he formally declined to file any criminal charges in connection with the case.

“There’s simply no evidence that crimes were committed … it’s just not there,” Skoric said in an interview. “A prosecutor needs evidence, and we have none.”

The girl’s father reacted to the decision with “rage and surprise,” according to Cowboy State Daily, and her mother said it felt like the case was being swept under a rug.

A delayed report

The kindergartner’s parents have indicated to media outlets that they believe the assaults started occurring in late August, saying the child had mentioned being bullied and refused to use the school restroom around that time. They also have said the girl’s behavior changed.

However, the child didn’t tell her parents about the alleged assaults until late October, when the family contacted Cody police.

The child alleged that a half dozen older girls assaulted her on multiple occasions in a school bathroom. That included allegations that the group of girls sexually assaulted her by sticking items in her genitalia and also gagged her with toilet paper and punched, beat, kicked and stomped her.

However, Skoric said the child didn’t report the assaults to her parents, teachers, school staff or other students at the time, and he said no one observed the child crying or any redness, bruising, bleeding or other injuries after the alleged incidents.

“The lack of any obvious physical injury or evidence of these alleged violent assaults after their alleged occurrence, which naturally would have been observed by people who would have seen her and been around her, including school staff and teachers, is highly suspicious,” Skoric wrote.

He added that police conducted “an extensive review of hallway security cameras” — including footage of the bathroom entrance — and “nothing out of the ordinary was observed that would suggest the child was assaulted.”

“In fact, the behaviors that were observed upon her exiting the restroom would lead to the conclusion that no physical or sexual assaults occurred,” Skoric said.

A physician assistant who examined the girl on Oct. 27 did conclude that she had been sexually abused.

According to what the child’s parents told Cowboy State Daily, the PA found signs of contamination and trauma in the child’s genitalia.

However, Skoric was critical of the PA’s findings in his declination letter, writing that she is not a certified pediatric sexual assault examiner and “did not have much experience with patients of that age.”

With the assistance of the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Cody police reached out to a trained examiner who reviewed the case in consultation with a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology.

“Both indicated the exam by the physician assistant did not follow best practices and was outside the scope of practice for the physician assistant,” Skoric said, adding that, “aside from the opinion alone of this physician assistant, nothing in the review of medical records or otherwise establishes that a sexual assault occurred.”

As part of Cody Police Department’s investigation, the child was also interviewed by a “child advocacy center” that’s trained and certified in interviewing young children, Skoric wrote.

“During this interview, the alleged victim disclosed that she had fabricated at least part of her story,” Skoric wrote. “It was one of the more serious and disturbing allegations to which she admitted was simply not true.”

However, the child’s father stood by his daughter’s account in his Tuesday interview with Cowboy State Daily, telling the outlet that, “My daughter did not lie. Everything she said is true.”

A public airing

The child’s parents have been critical of Cody police and the Cody school district from the outset of the case, faulting their response, communication and investigations. The family reported the allegations on Friday, Oct. 27, and by Tuesday, Oct. 31, the father contacted the Cody Enterprise and accused the school district of trying to “sweep it under the rug.”

He told Cowboy State Daily he turned to the media in an effort to pressure authorities to take action.

According to media accounts, the father asked other officials to intervene in the case, including Gov. Mark Gordon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder and U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.); he also asked the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and FBI to oversee the investigation.

The girl’s father has asserted that Cody police would not allow his daughter to identify the girls who allegedly assaulted her.

According to Skoric’s letter, the family did identify four juvenile females who they believed had assaulted their daughter; it says the father provided photos of those children and included notes about the “very graphic and specific things each one of the alleged suspects had done to his daughter.”

“However, the investigation revealed two of the four suspects do not even attend Livingston School,” Skoric wrote, which “makes it highly problematic for this story to hold any merit.”

In an interview, Skoric added that the video footage didn’t show any of those four girls entering the bathroom at the same time as the 5-year-old. The girl’s father told Cowboy State Daily it was possible his daughter misidentified similar-looking girls.

He added to the outlet that, “I’ve just wished so much these were older people and that I’d never called the police and could have prairie justice.”

In his letter, Skoric said he wasn’t filing charges because “the investigation into these allegations does not support that any crime(s) ever occurred.”

The prosecutor also said he appreciated Cody police’s work on the case while calling it unfortunate that the allegations played out in the media.

This story was published on January 11, 2024.

 
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