Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Camp worker faces sex charges

By Sheila McLaughlin, smclaughlin@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A former recreation director at a Salvation Army camp in Warren County was jailed Monday on accusations that he molested young female campers and teen-aged counselors, exposed himself and solicited for sex last summer.

        Rafael Jackson, 19, of the Evanston neighborhood of Cincinnati, turned himself in to authorities at 1:30 p.m. after learning that he was secretly indicted a week ago on charges involving 10 girls ages 12 to 15 at Camp Swoneky in Oregonia.

        The camp, run by the Salvation Army's Southwest Ohio Northeast Kentucky division in Cincinnati, offers weeklong camps to children ages 7 through 12. About 1,500 children from Findlay, Ohio, to Lexington attend from late June through mid-August each year, organization officials said.

        A Warren County grand jury indicted Mr. Jackson June 3 on 18 felony and misdemeanor charges of importuning, sexual imposition, gross sexual imposition, public indecency and unlawful sexual conduct with a juvenile. Prosecutors sought a rape charge, but the grand jury declined to indict Mr. Jackson on that charge.

        The incidents occurred from June 29 through July 9, 2001, at various places around the campsaid Detective Larry Sims, who investigates child abuse cases for the county.

        Unsealed Monday following Mr. Jackson's arrest, the indictments came after a 10-month investigation spurred by a complaint last July from a teen-age counselor.

        Detective Sims said he interviewed dozens of young campers and counselors during the course of the investigation. Mr. Jackson refused to give a statement to police, he said.

        The magnitude of the case, coupled with a personnel change on the county's child abuse team, delayed taking the case to a grand jury, he said.

        Major Geoff Banfield, general secretary of the Salvation Army division, said Mr. Jackson, who organized athletic games and other activities for campers, was fired immediately after allegations were raised.

        He said police never revealed to him the outcome of the investigation and how many children were involved.

        The Salvation Army checked out Mr. Jackson before hiring him, he said.

        “We, as required by law, did a background check and nothing came up. However, when there was a first indication of an impropriety with a girl staff member, we released him,” Maj. Banfield said.

        Detective Sims said Mr. Jackson had no prior criminal record.

        Maj. Banfield said camp counselors and staff this year will receive additional training on “situations to avoid or to look out for” as a result of the allegations against Mr. Jackson.


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