Worker at School for the Blind faces sex charges
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A child care worker at the West Virginia School for the Blind sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at his home multiple times, authorities said.
Authorities arrested Roger L. Sipple, 39, of Romney Sept. 12 on eight counts of sexual abuse by a guardian, Hampshire County Sheriff Nathan Sions said in a statement.
Sipple allegedly bought the victim and another juvenile alcohol and cigarettes. In exchange, the two juveniles would "expose and touch their breast and touch their buttocks," according to the criminal complaint.
This happened seven to 10 times, according to the complaint. The time period for the abuse is listed differently in the complaint and Sions' statement. The complaint states the events took place between November 2011 and June 2012. Sions states it happened between October 2010 and June 2012.
On another occasion, Sipple reportedly gave a juvenile girl alcohol and played a card game that involved the juvenile taking off her clothes. After the girl told Sipple she was tired, the criminal complaint states he carried the naked girl to his bedroom and engaged in oral sex. Sipple allegedly tried to engage in further sexual activity with the girl, but she refused.
The relationship between Sipple and the alleged victim is unclear. Sexual abuse by a guardian is a felony and involves a parent, guardian or custodian of a child engaging in sexual activity with that child regardless of whether the child willingly participated, according to the criminal complaint.
Sipple has worked at the state School for the Blind since at least 2008, according to public employment records. On Thursday the state Board of Education voted to suspend him without pay effective Sept. 19.
"This is very much a personnel matter that yes, we have been addressing," said Lynn Boyer, superintendent of the state schools for the deaf and blind.
Boyer said she could not comment further.
About 125 students attend the schools for the deaf and blind, which are on the same campus in Romney, Boyer said. Most live in residential halls at the school, she said.
Sipple was a child care worker in Keller Hall, according to state personnel records. Keller Hall is one of three residential halls on campus, Boyer said. It houses children of all ages but is generally used for those who are blind or have limited vision, she said.
As a child care worker, Sipple would have had access to the students in Keller. Some of the official job duties for the position include teaching children how to dress, helping with personal hygiene including bathing and assisting students in going to bed, according to state records.
Child care workers "provide parental-type counseling for students (are) cognizant of any mood or behavioral changes in students and promptly refer such changes to a supervisor," according to the state Department of Education's official job description.
Liza Cordeiro, spokeswoman for the department, said she could not comment on a personnel matter.
Hampshire County Magistrate Shirley Timbrook determined Wednesday during a preliminary hearing there was enough evidence to send the case to a grand jury.
The investigation remains open.
Writer Paul Fallon contributed to this story.