FREE TO PREY - Victim of sex offender says new charges show system failed
By Stephen Janis
The painful memories come in waves for Tina Morton.
Raped and sodomized by her uncle more than 30 years ago in the bedroom of his East Baltimore row home, the Baltimore County resident, now 36, said she has learned to live with terrifying recollections of the man who preyed upon her on the end of the bed while her siblings slept not far away.
“At his house is where I remember most of it,” Morton recalled of her abuse at the hands at the hands of George Ogle that started when she was only 2 years old.
“He molested me and my sister and a couple of other relatives when we were all young.”
“I remember the steps, I remember going up the steps and knowing something not right was going to happen; I was always scared.”
But now the man who three decades ago pleaded guilty to sexually abusing Morton, has been charged with committing the same crime with two girls under the age of 12 allegedly placed in his care through adoption. The new charges prompted Morton to share with Fox 45 and Investigative Voice her terrifying tale of abuse and terror to ensure he does not strike again.
“Something is very wrong here, “she said. “My worry is there are probably other people out there.”
Last week a Monroe County grand jury in West Virginia charged Ogle, formerly of Baltimore, with sexually abusing two girls under the age of 12 of whom he was the legal guardian. The charges alleged that Ogle had improper sexual contact with the girls from 1993 to 2006, a first-degree sex offense punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
And while West Virginia officials said they cannot comment on how Ogle became the guardian of his alleged victims, Ogle's new charges marks another sad chapter in the saga that has engulfed Morton and other family members in a decades-long struggle to heal from the harrowing ordeal of ongoing sexual abuse as children.
“He should never have been able to have another child with him.”
BALTIMORE JUDGE SUSPENDED SENTENCE
In 1979, Ogle pleaded guilty to raping and sexually abusing Morton and another relative after Morton told a baby sitter about the abuse. A Baltimore City judge gave Ogle a five-year suspended sentence along with three years’ probation.
But sometime during the mid-80s Morton said, Ogle relocated to West Virginia.
There, sources said, he adopted two girls, children he is now charged with busing in the same way he pleaded guily to abusing Morton and several other relatives hree decades ago.
How Ogle managed to slip through the cracks is not hard to explain, said child advocates said. Strict privacy laws designed to protect adoptive adults and caseworkers sometimes means vital information is not readily shared between jurisdictions.
“There are holes in the system in terms of making sure foster parents and adoptive parents don’t have a prior history of abuse,” said Matthew Joseph, executive director of the Baltimore-based Advocates for Children and Youth.
“When you get to sharing info across state lines, that’s a major issue.”
Compounding the problem is that Ogle's first set of charges came before Congress authorized in 1996 the National Sex Offender Registry, a database assembled by the FBI that includes all people convicted of sexual crimes in the United States. The laws also require sex offenders to notify local law enforcement within 10 days of relocating to another state.
Still, West Virginia Child Services officials said potential adoptive parents seeking children in state-supervised adoptions are meticulously scrutinized.
“All parents are finger-printed and checked through the criminal databases,” said Christopher Stahl, a regional supervisor forWest Virginia Human Resources Department.
“If they have a felony conviction or have abused a child that is an automatic disqualification,” he added.
However, the Monroe County prosecutor’s office told Fox 45 and Investigative Voice that Ogle’s 1979 charges were listed in the centralized database of the National Crime Information Center, which incorporates criminal charges from all 50 states. However, prosecutors said that while Ogle’s original charges were listed in the system, the disposition of his case was not.
Still, for Morton and the other victims, the system failed.
“They didn’t protect anybody because there are more victims after me,” she said. “I’m horrified, angry and upset the system failed me.”
VISITS WITH HER ABUSER
Indeed, at his 1979 sentencing, Ogle was ordered not to have unsupervised contact with Morton, a loose guideline that she said enabled frequent trips to visit him in West Virginia that lead to terrifying encounters with her former assailant.
“I would get so scared when we slept at his place that we would hold hands in the bunk bed while we slept,” she said.
Regular visits with his former victims was not the only close contact with children afforded Ogle since he pleaded guilty to abusing Morton. As recently as last year, Ogle served as president of the Monroe County Coalition for Children and Families, a state-funded organization whose web site espouses an agenda “to protect, nurture, educate & support their children in a family-centered, family friendly atmosphere.” Coalition Executive Director Shirley Hall said Ogle had little contact with children. “He didn’t have any interaction with children,” she said in a phone interview. “He hasn’t been tried and we have to say innocent until proven guilty.”
Still, Morton believes that Ogle’s case points to the damage one man can do, given the opportunity.
“Who knows who else this man has hurt,” Morton said. “I think anybody that was touched or assaulted by him should press charges against him to assure that he goes to jail and doesn’t see the light of day.”