The criminal trial for a Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) worker is set to start this week. The CPS worker has been charged with official oppression for subjecting a person under CPS investigation “to search and seizure that the defendant knew as unlawful.” Criminal charges against CPS employees related to their actions in child protective services cases are rare.
Jury selection will begin early on Monday, February 23rd to decide the fate of Rebekah Thonginh Ross. The trial will be held in the 354th District Court in Greenville, Hunt County, Texas. The court is presided over by Judge Richard Beacom (R). Greenville is 45 miles from Dallas and has a population of about 25,500 people.
Ross is one of three CPS workers indicted in connection with the initial investigation of a special needs teenager who was murdered in 2012. A referral was made to Child Protective Services but details are private under Texas law. The teenager was not in foster care. The additional charges of official oppression against Ross and another CPS worker are unrelated to the murder case.
Ross, Natalie Ausbie Reynolds, and Laura Ard were arrested in September of 2013 and were charged with official oppression and tampering with evidence. The cases against all three have been scheduled for April 6th.
The women were employed with the agency and held the positions of supervisor, caseworker, and investigator. Ard was the Investigative Program Director in the CPS office in Greenville. She was hired in 1992 and retired just months before she was arrested. Natalie Reynolds, was hired in 2002 and worked as an Investigative Supervisor.
According to CBSDFW, the indictments mention a risk assessment of the home of Aretha Moore, the teenager’s mother.
Sixteen-year-old Alicia Moore was murdered in November 2012. Her nude body was found in a wicker basket trunk near the highway in Canton in Van Zandt County, Texas.
The teenage girl was last seen getting off a school bus in Greenville. School bus cameras recorded her getting on the bus at the high school and exiting the bus in Greenville. News sources reported that the Greenville Independent School District attempted to trace her iPad issued from the school but that it had been reset and its tracking disabled.
The girl’s great uncle, 57-year-old Michael Vincent Moore from Grand Prairie, was indicted in July 2013 for capital murder for her death. The Dallas Morning News reported that DNA evidence implicated him in the crime.
Terry Dwayne Ramshire, 49 years of age, pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of the teenager and was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2013. He had been sexually assaulting the young girl for years.
The official oppression trial set against Ross this week is a Class A misdemeanor. The crime was alleged to occur on or about December 16, 2011.
Official oppression occurs where a public servant acts pursuant to his office or employment and:
- intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, search, seizure, dispossession, assessment, or lien that he knows is unlawful; or
- intentionally denies or impedes another in the exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power, or immunity, knowing his conduct is unlawful.
The crime of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence occurs where a person, knowing that an investigation or official proceeding is pending or in progress:
- alters, destroys, or conceals any record, document, or thing with intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in the investigation or official proceeding; or
- makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course or outcome of the investigation or official proceeding.
A person also commits the crime if knowing that an offense has been committed, he or she alters, destroys, or conceals any record, document, or thing (as above) involved in any subsequent investigation of or official proceeding related to the offense. An offense for tampering with or fabricating evidence is a felony of the third degree.
Although Ross has been charged with three other counts of official oppression and one count of tampering with or fabricating evidence, the Hunt County District Attorney is proceeding to trial with only the official oppression count at this time. A news outlet reported February 9th that the family of the murdered girl was angry that prosecutors were not moving forward against two of the caseworkers for tampering with evidence.
The District Attorney in Hunt County originally sought criminally negligent homicide indictments against the three CPS workers but they were charged with the lesser offense of tampering with evidence.
Breitbart Texas will continue to follow these cases.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2.