Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, SC)
Author: MONICA MERCER
Until Monday, nobody knew where to find the mother of three boys who investigators say were starved by a Lyman couple.
That's when Greer police arrested Nina West. The 24-year-old, who lost custody of her sons in 2002, said she was walking toward a pay phone to call the state Department of Social Services to discuss her children's welfare.
Relatives had sent word that investigators needed to talk to West about the boys, who were taken from the home of West's aunt, Molly McCurry, and her husband, Scott, on July 13. Authorities say the children were suffering from malnutrition and neglect.
West now sits in the Spartanburg County jail with bond set at $23,500 -- charged with robbery, assault and battery with intent to kill and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. At least geographically, she is closer than she has been in years to the McCurrys. So close, in fact, that West passed Molly McCurry in one of the jail's halls Tuesday morning.
Molly and Scott McCurry remain in jail without bail on charges of child abuse that have been classified as "violent offenses." According to an incident report from the night of the couple's arrest, West's 5-year-old son "looked like a skeleton" and weighed less than 20 pounds. The 7- and 8-year olds each weighed less than 40 pounds. Later, Scott McCurry admitted to DSS workers that he had used zip ties to secure the boys to bedposts.
The boys now are in the custody of the DSS, along with the McCurrys' 10-year-old biological daughter.
"I'm mad, but then again, I'd like to know for sure if Molly had anything to do with it," West said of the allegations. "If she did, why didn't she call the police? That's my biggest question."
West said she had always trusted Molly, but never Scott McCurry, and expressed hope that he would be punished severely.
Principal Deputy Solicitor Barry Barnette said Tuesday that the DSS has kept all three brothers together, and they "seem to be doing fine. They're getting the nourishment they need."
West told the Herald-Journal Tuesday that she's been a "big ball of emotion" since learning of her children's situation from reading the newspaper.
"I've cried more in the past month than I've cried in five years," she said.
West said that since her children were removed from her custody in 2002 by DSS officials and subsequently placed with the McCurrys in 2003, she has visited with them about 15 times. She would have seen them more, she said, but the McCurrys made visitations difficult for her.
Along with other family members, West claimed that the McCurrys had increasingly withdrawn from the family and eventually refused to let her see her children at all. The last time she saw them was in the Greer Wal-Mart in the summer of 2005, following a car accident that caused the 8-year-old to lose his hand.
West said she talked to them for "about three minutes" and that her middle son "did not recognize me at all."
"There are no words to express how I feel now. It's horrifying," West said, fighting back tears.
Her mother, Juanita Fisher, is the only family member she still trusts, West said. She now hopes Fisher will gain custody of the boys.
West admitted she has a history of drug use but said she never endangered her children. She's moved from place to place since the death of the boys' father in 2004, but her children have always been a positive force in her life, she said.
"If my mom gets them, that would make me want to straighten up," West said. "I can do good. I used to do good, but it was only because of my kids."
West expressed feeling hopeless since losing that lifeline. "Now I live my life like I don't care," West said.
Greer Officer Kara Price, who arrested West Monday morning, said she has known West for the past eight months from patrolling the Victor Mill area.
"Recently she's been moving around a lot," Price said. "She hasn't had a stable place to stay, but I've never had any trouble with her."
West said she now lives in the Sunnyside area in Greer with her boyfriend of four months. She has not held a steady job for at least a year, but said she has been paid sporadically for cleaning apartments in Sunnyside.
West was arrested Monday in connection with an incident that occurred July 15.
According to an incident report, Adolfo Reyes was found lying on the ground on Fifth Street in the Victor Mill area of Greer. He was taken to Greenville Memorial Hospital and treated for a broken nose, shattered pelvis, lacerations to the face and various internal injuries.
On July 17, a Greer woman called police to report that someone involved in the assault had told her that West, Nicky Leonard, Erika Moore, 21; and Samantha Isaac, 17; all of Greer, had been driving in a green Honda Accord the evening of the incident and "thought they had killed a Mexican."
The next day Moore said in a statement to police that all four had gone to a unit of Millbrick apartments in Greer that night "to see if anyone wanted to have sex with Samantha for $30." When a man produced $30, Moore told police that they grabbed the money and ran to the car.
The man then ran after them and jumped into the car through a passenger window. Moore said they started driving toward Fifth Street with the passenger door open as West and Isaac hit the victim in the face, Moore said. The car then sped up, and Moore said the women pushed the victim from the vehicle and "watched him hit the road and drove off."
The victim is in critical condition and has not been willing to give information on possible suspects, according to the incident report. The investigation is ongoing. West, Moore and Isaac have been arrested, but authorities are still looking for Leonard.
West said Tuesday she never hit anyone in the face.
West was arrested in 2004 in Spartanburg County, accused of domestic violence against her husband, Harley West. She is being held on a bench warrant regarding that case and must either pay a fine of $1,084 or serve 30 days in jail.
West also was arrested July 27 on charges of trespassing and possession of drug paraphernalia by Greer police, authorities said.