Victim’s burden lifts as McDowell man convicted of ’82 assault

EDITOR’S NOTE: It is the policy of the Daily Telegraph not to identify victims of sexual assault. However, in the following story the victim allowed us to use her name in the hope it may inspire others to come forward.

WELCH, W.Va. — Thirty-two years ago Jenefer Miller Crim was sexually abused by a family member in a McDowell County home where she was placed in foster care. For more than three decades, she carried the guilt, the burden and the shame.

Not anymore.

Tuesday afternoon a McDowell County jury found her abuser guilty of the sexual assault and incest that occurred in 1982.

David Miller, 54, of Premier, was found guilty after a two-day trial, McDowell County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Kornish said. The jury deliberated only 13 minutes before returning the verdict.

“He was charged with committing incest in August or September of 1982 of his half-brother’s daughter,” Kornish said. “She was 16 at the time and he was 21.”

•••

The case began when Crim contacted the prosecuting attorney’s office in 2012 and told investigator Mike Spradlin what happened to her more than three decades ago. At that time, she and her siblings were foster children in the home of Miller’s parents.

“(Crim) became pregnant by David Miller and had a child who was born in 1983,” Kornish said. This child died on July 8, 2010, at the age of 27. “The victim contacted our office after his death.”

Kornish said Spradlin, a retired West Virginia State Police trooper, was able to corroborate Crim’s story with other individuals. Also, because her son died an unattended death at a young age, an autopsy was performed allowing Spradlin to get a sample of his DNA for comparison with the victim and Miller.

“The Marshall University Forensic Science Center does parentage DNA testing for the state police,” Kornish said. “The testing showed he (Miller) was the father — it was 99.99 percent based on statistical analysis.

“In this case we had some pretty compelling scientific evidence, plus testimony from four of the foster children who lived in the home at that time,” he said.

Kornish said all the state’s witnesses experienced “traumas in that home.”

“It’s something that has affected these kids’ lives … at least two of them said they had reported it (abuse) to somebody and were not believed, and were physically threatened if they told somebody else,” Kornish said. “It’s kind of like a domestic violence situation, but their world is a lot smaller.”

Kornish said when children are removed from their natural home and placed in foster care at a young age, “their world is defined by their immediate surroundings.”

“If you tell one of the people who is supposed to be taking care of you and they don’t believe you, it’s typical for kids to reach a point where they think they can’t do anything about it,” he said.

Kornish said the investigation and trial was very emotional for Crim and the witnesses. “When we brought them in it reopened wounds. One of the individuals still has nightmares about it.”

Kornish said Crim waited to come forward to spare her own son.

“She didn’t want to run the risk of David Miller knowing he was the biological father of her son, and potentially exposing her son to some of the trauma she endured as a child,” Kornish said. “She lied to others about who the father was, but she knew. She basically dealt with her own pain to protect her son. Once her son died, she said, ‘I can’t protect him anymore.’ ’’

•••

Crim, 47, recalls being terrified when she made the call to the prosecuting attorney’s office in 2012.

“I thought they would think I was crazy,” she said, during a telephone interview Wednesday evening. “They listened to me and believed me and starting asking questions and investigating — when nobody would for all those years, they did.

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