A 16-year-old North Georgia teenager used a public playground to befriend young boys he later sexually molested, LaFayette police said.
Scott Winebrinner has been charged with 14 counts of child sex charges. He faces five counts of aggravated sodomy, five counts of aggravated child molestation and four counts of child molestation.
Winebrinner was 15 years old when he was arrested and charged in May, but LaFayette police Capt. Stacey Meeks said the teenager is charged as an adult.
He said Winebrinner admitted to befriending then sodomizing two boys, ages 7 and 8, in the public housing complex where he lived on Reading Circle, just a couple of blocks north of West Main Street in LaFayette.
"There is a centralized playground there where a lot of kids are left unattended," Meeks said. "So he befriended a couple of these young boys, and it provided him the opportunity to perpetrate his crime."
Meeks said one of the boys told a teacher about the abuse in May and Winebrinner was interviewed and confessed within a few days of the initial complaint.
"He was docile and compliant," Meeks said. "During the interview he seemed remorseful, and it came out in the interview he had been victimized himself as a child."
The abuse happened at several places within the public housing complex, including the playground, a wooded area and inside the housing units, Meeks said. He said it had been going on for "a period of months" before the boy approached the teacher.
Meeks said the first boy's decision to speak to authorities led to identification of the second boy.
"We wouldn't have known about it if one of the victims hadn't come forward," he said. "I commend the young man for having enough courage to go tell somebody."
Meeks added that it's important for parents to carefully watch their children, and that the victims were not closely supervised by adults.
Neighbor Phyllis Parker said she's not surprised that the two boys were targeted.
"It makes me mad and it upsets me, but it doesn't surprise me," she said. "I can see that ball court out back and I see small kids who stay outside for hours and hours at a time and no one goes to check on them. The predators watch for the kids who are not attended."
Winebrinner was granted a continuance in Walker County Superior Court last week. He will either accept a plea deal or decide to go to trial during his next court appearance, set for May 6, 2013.
Meeks said he hopes Winebrinner takes a plea deal.
"We are prepared to go to trial," he said. "But I would rather him [take a plea deal] because I would hate to have the victims on the stand and have to relive all this during a trial."
Winebrinner's public defender, Kristin Patten, declined to comment on the case.
The suspect used to attend LaFayette High School, but he left the school "quite a while ago," Principal Mike Culberson said.
"I can confirm that he is not a student, and he hasn't been here for a long time," he said.
Culberson couldn't release the details of the situation but emphasized that Winebrinner's departure from the school was not related to these charges.
It was not clear Tuesday if Winebrinner was enrolled in school at the time of his arrest.
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476.
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...