Union Co. Sheriff stands by decision not to press charges in child sex abuse case

UNION COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - When Lea Boyle got a letter from the Union County Department of Social Services in September 2014, she thought it meant her five-year-old son would get justice.

The letter substantiated Boyle's claims that her son's father had sexually assaulted her son.

"During this investigation, sufficient evidence of Abuse/Neglect was found as defined by statute. The alleged perpetrator will be criminally charged and his name will appear on the responsible individuals list for those found to be responsible for sexual offenses," the letter said.

But that's the last time Boyle had hope that her son's father would face consequences for the behavior she and her son had reported. The man never faced criminal charges and, now, he's fighting to re-gain custody of his son.

Boyle said she agreed to speak to WBTV after years of attempts to attract attention to her case.

What's most baffling, Boyle said, is the fact that the Union County Sheriff's Office refused to charge her son's father, even though he is already a registered sex offender; having been previously convicted of sexually assaulting a family member in a previous marriage.

Allegations of sexual assault

Boyle reported her suspicions that her son's father was touching her son inappropriately twice: once in 2012 and again in 2014.

The complaints were based on things her son had told her and behavior she characterized as strange and inappropriate.

Her complaint in 2014 prompted an investigation by social workers at the Union County Department of Social Services.

The three-month investigation included countless interviews with Boyle, her family, her son, workers at his daycare and others. Social workers also tried to track down the boy's father for an interview.

They also scheduled an appointment for Boy's son to undergo a forensic interview with a child counselor.

A recording of the interview capture's the then five-year-old boy's claims about what he says his father did to him.

"Well, he touched me in the peepee all the time," the boy told the counselor. "On these visits when I go with him, anytime I go, he always touches my peepee and rubs it."

The visits the boy is referring to are supervised visits arranged through a court order.

"On the visits, he always rubs it," the boy told the counselor again, further specifying that the touching happened under the table during breakfast at a local diner.

Investigative records from the Union County Sheriff's Office, obtained by WBTV, show the woman supervising the visits between Boyle's son and his father was replaced after it was discovered she was not properly supervising the visits.

Ultimately, Union County DSS substantiated the claims of sexual abuse. The only action they took was to refer the case to the Union County Sheriff's Office.

UCSO Investigation

A copy of the UCSO file on the 2014 investigation ends with the case being closed because of a lack of evidence to substantiate a crime.

The detective on the case closed the investigation after conducting just one interview, records show.

"After speaking with the staff that supervises the visitation for (the child) and his father (redacted), it does not corroborate to what the child disclosed too (sic) during his interview at the Treehouse," the detective wrote.

The file was closed shortly thereafter.

Although the detective spoke with those charged with supervising visits between Boyle's son and his father, she did not speak with the father about the allegations.

"I spoke with (the boy's father) in reference to setting up a time to meet and talk about this investigation. (The boy's father) told me that he would have to talk to his lawyer about talking to me," the detective wrote in her notes. "After speaking with (the boy's father) on the phone briefly I received a call from Attorney Allison Khan advising me that (the boy's father) would not be speaking with me. I have had no further contact with (the boy's father) in reference to this case."

The detective's case notes show she also did not interview Boyle or her son. Notes in both the UCSO investigative file and the DSS case file show the detective had said she would be present for the forensic interview with Boyle's son but she did not attend.

Instead, she viewed a recording of the interview after it happened, notes show.

Ultimately, though, it was that interview that would lead the detective to request that the case be closed.

"The case file has been reviewed and the forensic interview of the child victim has been reviewed also. The child victim made statements in his forensic interview that through my investigation have been proven to be not true and cast doubt about the rest of his statements made," the detective wrote. "There is no physical evidence at this time and no other evidence available to coborate (sic) that a criminal act has taken place.'

Sheriff stands by investigation

Sheriff Eddie Cathey refused WBTV's request for an interview. Instead, he issued the following statement:

"The Sheriff's Office investigates each matter involving allegations of criminal conduct with the goal of ensuring that justice is served.  All cases are unique and the circumstances of every investigation are considered along with any applicable law. In many cases, evidence exists necessary for a successful criminal prosecution.  However, not every case reveals enough admissible evidence to file criminal charges. The decision to file criminal charges against an individual is something this office takes very seriously and our detectives work diligently to ensure that all viable leads have been addressed before charges are filed or a case is closed due to insufficient evidence."

"Regarding the case you asked about, we are confident, based upon the evidence we had, that detectives, along with the Union County District Attorney made the correct decision that insufficient evidence existed to file charges against Mr. McAlister regarding the allegations of child sexual abuse.  However, based upon information we obtained during this investigation, the Sheriff's Office arrested Mr. McAlister in June 2012 for Failing to Properly Register as a Sex Offender and also for being Unlawfully on Premises as a Sex Offender.  As a result of those charges, he was convicted of Felony Obstruction of Justice."

Attorney for father responds

Attorney Allison Khan, who represents the father of Lea Boyle's son, sent the following statement:

"Please be advised that my client vehemently denies the allegations made by Ms. Boyle. This matter is currently pending in active litigation in juvenile court, the proper venue for the allegations to be adjudicated. The allegations are currently, and always have been, contested, to say the least. We object to Ms. Boyle's attempt to have her case "heard" on television. There is a child at the center of this case and we view her publicity of this matter as a direct harm to him and your airing of any story regarding this matter aiding in bringing about harm to this child. We do not give you permission to use the child's name or likeness, nor do we permit you to use my client's name or likeness. I would respectfully ask that you reconsider your position on running this story, in the best interests of the child."

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