Suspected child abuse reported earlier to Chattanooga police, state officials

Suspected child abuse reported earlier to Chattanooga police, state officials

November 19th, 2011 by Todd South in News

James Lee Skiles

Multiple people say they repeatedly contacted both local police and state child services about suspected abuse of six children before a recent beating sent four of the children to the hospital.

Jamie Lee Skiles, 34, waived his right to a hearing in Hamilton County Sessions Court Friday, sending the case to the grand jury, which will hear information on three charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect and one charge of child abuse and neglect.

"I do not understand why they were not removed prior to having the you-know-what beat out of them," said a woman who'd come in contact with the children through charitable work in public housing.

The children lived in the Emma Wheeler housing complex with their mother Melissa Pinion. Skiles was her boyfriend.

Skiles was sentenced to three years probation in 2001 for aggravated child abuse of a six-year-old in 1997, according to court documents.

The woman, who asked that her name not be used out of fear of retaliation from Skiles, said she saw deplorable living conditions and signs of abuse throughout the second half of 2010.

She said she reported incidents to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services multiple times, but the agency told her they could not place all six children in foster care. Despite calls and emails, case workers did nothing to prevent the abuse, she said.

The Department of Children's Services now has all six of Pinion's children in custody, said Molly Suddeth, communications director for the department. An investigation has been opened into the incident, she said, but declined to give further details, including whether anyone has ever called the department to report suspected child abuse, saying state law prohibits her from divulging such information.

On Nov. 12, two of Pinion's children ran to a neighbor's home, saying Skiles was beating them. Chattanooga police responded and arrested Skiles.

Four of the children were transported to Erlanger hospital, where staff found one 2-year-old twin had a broken leg and fractured ribs, while the other twin had perforated bowels and rib fractures. Both were hospitalized.

Medical personnel also examined a 7-year-old and 10-year-old and found minor bruising. Two other girls, a 13-year-old and a 5-year-old, were not taken to the hospital, according to a police report.

Pinion told police she was not home when the alleged abuse occurred.

A neighbor of Pinion and Skiles told the Times Free Press that she had called Chattanooga police multiple times about suspected ongoing child abuse.

Chattanooga police spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary said Friday there had been a reported incident about an injury to Pinion's son, but it was ruled accidental.

Weary said police had not received any reports of child abuse at Pinion's home other than the recent incident. Police and Children's Services staff are investigating charges against Skiles.

On the day of the incident, Pinion's 13-year-old daughte told police that Skiles had the twins and the 7-year-old stand, facing the wall, with their arms above their heads. Skiles would punch their bodies if the children lowered their hands.

She said she saw Skiles hit her siblings in a similar manner about five other times for wetting the bed during naps. The 7-year-old had gotten in trouble at school.

The girl said Skiles sent the children upstairs and, when one of the twins began vomiting, he told them to have their mother take the boy to the hospital when she got home and he left the house, according to the arrest report.

Since 2003, Skiles has been charged with five drug-related charges, including methamphetamine manufacture, one count of domestic assault, theft and reckless endangerment.