Agency says abuse, neglect found at Greer couple's Home
Bill Rettew was named S.C. father of the year in 1999
From stall and wire reports
GREENVILLE — The state Social Services Department says a pattern of physical abuse as well as educational and medical neglect led the agency to remove 15 children from the care of a Greer couple, according to court documents.
Bill Rettew, named the 1999 South Carolina father of the year by state Attorney General Charlie Condon, and wife, Debbie Rettew, have taken in or adopted more than 20 special-needs children.
Social Services was granted an emergency court order to remove 15 of the children from the Rettews‘ home on Nov. 8. The agency placed the children into foster care.
WYFF-TV in Greenville was granted access to court records in the case, which had been placed under a gag order that also prohibited the participants in the case from discussing it.
Family Court Judge Amy Sutherland has required other news organizations to petition for access to the documents.
The television station detailed the allegations against the Rettews on their site Wednesday.
Agency documents said one or more of the children in the home reported being slammed into walls, whipped with a belt and thrown down stairs.
One child said he was beaten with a broom-siick and dustpan.
A guardian ad litem report quoted one child as saying that Bill Rettew would "smack a blind girl because she would hold her head over her plate at the dinner table. Kids were required to sit up straight.
Social Services documents show that all but one of the children were home-schooled by the Rettews and that 3 child old enough for first grade could count only to 17, didn't know the alphabet and could not recognize simple words or symbols like a stop sign.
The agency said some children reported that they did not have their own toothbrushes, were bathed only once a week and that the Rettews did not provide the agency with medical records for the children.
The television station reported that the Rettews are prohibited from responding to the allegations because of the gag order. Their trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 11.
Robb McBurney, spokesman for Attorney General Condon, said Rettew passed a State Law Enforcement Division background check. as do all father of the year finalists.
There was no evidence of any problems in 1999. McBurney said Wednesday.
"We totally stand behind those background checks,” McBurney said.
The SLED check is about as thorough as any performed for state government and includes more than a criminal records check, McBurney said.
"It's not like getting a top-secret military clearance, but they do ask some people about them," he said. In a prepared statement, Condon said he had always known Rettew to be a good and decent man.
"I know nothing of these allegations against Bill Rettew, and I certainly hope they turn out not to be trite." Condon said. "I do know that Christian conservatives, especially those who choose to home-school their children, are too often targeted for attack by bureaucrats. That may or may not be the problem in this case."
For years, the Rettew family was featured in news reports because of its size and acceptance of special needs children. The family has benefited from fund-raisers by social and religious groups and toured as a family singing group.
The Rettews were not operating a DSS-licensed foster home. The children removed in November had been placed with the Rettews by their parents, often on the basis of a church referral.
Many of the family's friends and associates have said they do not believe the charges against the couple.
About 150 of Bill and Debbie Rettew's supporters gathered outside the Greenville County Family Court Dec. 22 to demonstrate on the couple's behalf.
One of the protesters. David "Mouse" Keffler said he had been to the Rettew home many times "and I've never seen anything bordering on neglect. DSS goes in the house and sees something ugly. I go in the house and see nothing but love."
Staff write Dione Norman contributed to this report.