Child molestation case went weeks without response

Posted: Tuesday, April 23, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A state inquiry blames bad weather, poor communication and confusion for a delayed a response to a child molestation case on St. George Island earlier this year.

The initial report of a molestation in the Bering Sea island community was received at the Division of Family and Youth Services office in Unalaska on Feb. 26 or 27. A trooper and social worker from the Division of Family and Youth Services flew to the village on March 14, interviewed the victim and removed children from a home.

According to the report by Jay Livey, the commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services, a DFYS worker investigating the initial complaint by telephone didn't ask enough questions of the right people. In addition, the original report was recanted. A second complaint was filed, but a week of bad weather delayed the arrival of troopers and the social worker.

The inquiry was prompted by a complaint from the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association and a letter to Gov. Tony Knowles from two lawmakers who represent the region, Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, and Rep. Carl Moses, D-Unalaska.

In their letter, Hoffman and Moses pointed out that the state is defending itself against a lawsuit that claims public safety and justice services in rural Alaska are inadequate and inferior to services provided to on-road towns.

''(This) incident . . . makes a point in their case,'' the lawmakers told Gov. Tony Knowles.

In an earlier letter to trooper commander Randy Crawford, Dimitri Philemonof, president of the Aleutian-Pribilof Islands Association, said the response was ''not acceptable.''

''This situation presented a great degree of risk to the child and did require an emergency response,'' Philemonof said.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Glenn Godfrey, said troopers would have found a way to reach the island if lives were in danger.

''We'd do whatever we had to do to get out there,'' he said.

''Normally, the response would be more timely than this,'' Godfrey said. ''But every once in a while in Alaska, there are weather problems and plane problems, and sometimes it does take us a while to get out to these calls.''

St. George has about 150 people. The island is about 750 miles west of Anchorage and 250 miles northwest of Unalaska. There is no village public safety officer.

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