Recognizing signs of physical child abuse
Two men were to take three kids on a weekend trip to Tennessee last week when instead they took the children to a Columbus motel and repeatedly sodomized the oldest, a 14-year-old boy, a detective testified Monday in Columbus Recorder’s Court.
Sgt. John Bailey said the boy’s mother told police Jeffery Leonard Copeland and his friend Keairis Burrell Hollingsworth were to travel to Tennessee from Meriwether County, Georgia, on Thursday with kids ages 10, 13 and 14, but never made it.
Copeland was acquainted with the 14-year-old boy’s mother, police said.
The men and children left about 3 p.m. that day. The youngest child called the mother around 4:15 p.m. to say they had arrived, the mother said. She told police she knew they could not have made the trip in an hour.
She told officers she tried to call the children back and couldn’t reach them. She finally got in touch with Copeland and told him she would call the police if he didn’t bring the kids home right away, Bailey said.
After the children were returned around 6 p.m. Friday, the mother questioned the kids to try to find out where they’d been. Eventually the 14-year-old broke down, and said they’d been at a Columbus motel where he repeatedly had been sexually assaulted, Bailey testified.
Columbus police learned of the accusations about 1 a.m. Saturday, when they were summoned to Piedmont Columbus Regional to investigate a child molestation case, the detective said. They had the boy visit Children’s Treehouse for a forensic interview.
The boy told investigators the two men took the kids from Meriwether County to the Motel 6 at 1325 Veterans Parkway in downtown Columbus, where the two younger children stayed in one room and the 14-year-old boy stayed with the two men in another.
Both men repeatedly sodomized him there, the boy reported.
Police went to the motel later Saturday, and learned the room the younger siblings had stayed in had been vacated Friday, which fit the mother’s account of demanding the children be returned. The other room still was being rented, Bailey said.
Police got a search warrant and arrest warrants for the two suspects, and raided the room, capturing both men and collecting evidence, the detective said. Arrested at 1 p.m. Saturday, each was charged with aggravated child molestation and with sodomy.
Bailey said that Hollingsworth, 28, of College Park, Georgia, admitted to having oral sex with the boy after watching Copeland do it. Copeland, 38, of Woodbury, Georgia, denied all the allegations, the officer said.
Judge Julius Hunter found probable cause to send the case to Muscogee Superior Court, ordering each suspect held without bond. The men are to have no contact with the victim or the other children if a Superior Court judge later sets a bond that allows their release, Hunter said.