Saturday, January 28, 2012

The solution to sexual abuse: Education

By Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

A registered sexual offender raping a 3-year-old girl.

An elected official allegedly sexually abusing three children.

That's what the Bradenton Herald reported this week. The police reports for those two cases had some of the most gruesome, gritty details I've ever read.

So when I interviewed Lauren Book, a child sexual abuse survivor and advocate, her visit in Bradenton could not have been more timely. For six years, Book was beaten and raped by a nanny.

As she spoke during the official announcement of the new Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Center in Bradenton on Saturday, Book repeated sexual abuse statistics:

One in three girls and one in five boys are sexually abused by the time they are 18. There are 39 million sexual abuse survivors in the United States.

But the most motivating one: 95 percent of sexual abuse can be prevented through education.

Books' organization, Lauren's Kids, created an abuse prevention curriculum called "Safer, Smarter Kids," that aims to do just that: educate.

The curriculum will be implemented in elementary schools statewide this year. It includes a DVD and teachers will explain to students what a "good touch" and a "bad touch" feel like.

Sexual abuse "is an epidemic and a pandemic in this country," Book said on Saturday.

Here's to hoping education changes that.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

How we got Nikki's story

Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

As journalists, we get caught up with wanting to know what's going on. It's our job, after all. But sometimes, it's good to pause for a moment during a chaotic news day and think beyond the "what" factor.

When the Bradenton Herald reported that a 29-year-old woman's body was found in a ditch on University Parkway last month, one paragraph in a story piqued my interest:
In Sarasota, Scott has a history of drug-related arrests and has been convicted several times, according to Sarasota County court records.
In 2008, Scott was convicted of robbery by sudden snatching in Sarasota. She had several convictions for drug-related charges in 2009 and 2010, according to Sarasota court records.
But why? I searched her name on Facebook. Maybe she had a public profile. Sure enough, there was a Nicole Rose Scott memorial page. It showed photographs of Nicole, known as Nikki by loved ones, with her children. Friends left comments on the wall. One reads, "I know you were trying to turn your life around."

I left a post on the wall. The next day, I got a call from Nikki's close friend. The story launched after that. That friend put me in touch with other loved ones. Those loved ones knew others who would be willing to talk to me.

In about a week, I had the first draft of today's article that tells the story of a young girl whose life began and ended tragically. Nicole Rose Scott's story is not just about what happened to her. It's not just about her criminal record.

It is also about who she was and what parts of her short life led her to a troubled path.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

News drove onto the Bradenton Herald's doorstep

Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

The news came to the Bradenton Herald on Friday night -- literally.

At about 9 p.m., a woman driving a gray Taurus crashed into a red Volkswagen heading north on U.S. 41 near Manatee Avenue West.

The Taurus then took off, crossed over the median and drove into the wooded area on the east side of the Bradenton Herald’s property.

The 26-year-old woman got out of her car and fled, said Bradenton police Lt. Josh Cramer. Officers responding to the accident scene searched for the woman, who was located in the 400 block of Third Avenue West.

She had leaves in her hair, Cramer said.

The woman first told authorities she was the passenger in the vehicle, but later admitted she was the driver.

She was arrested and charged with fleeing the scene of an accident and police will conduct a DUI investigation.

The driver of the Volkswagen was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital, Cramer said.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Panties case not closed

Laura C. Morel
Crime/Immigration Reporter

Last month, the Bradenton Herald reported that charges against a man accused of robbing panties from his neighbor's home two years ago were dropped.

I called Ernest Kendler's defense attorney and the State Attorney's Office, but with the holidays, it can be dicey getting a call back right away.

Assistant State Attorney Julie Binkley returned my call today and had this to add to the story:

Charges against Ernest Kendler, 63, will be refiled this month.

The case was dropped because an expert witness was unavailable due to mandatory, out-of-state training, she said.

On Nov. 6, 2010, a man allegedly entered a house on the 100 block of Neptune Lane. A woman said she found him in her sister’s bedroom rummaging through a drawer full of panties, an arrest report said.

The man walked out and left when the woman said, “Hello?” 

Kendler, 63, told police he was not in his neighbor’s home, according to the report.

Read the Bradenton Herald for updates on the case.