In 2018, the investigative staff of the Major Crimes Unit was merged with the investigative staff of the Sexual Assault Child Abuse Unit. The new Major Crimes Unit is now comprised of two sections, the Violent Crimes Section and the Special Victims section. Detectives assigned to the Major Crimes Unit investigate both types of crime.
The Major Crimes Unit – Special Victims Section is comprised of two assistant prosecutors, one sergeant and five detectives. The Unit investigates all crimes involving sexual or physical abuse against children by adult and juvenile offenders and is involved with investigations of potential pedophiles, child pornography, and cases involving occupational/professional offenders.
The Unit was created in 1986 in response to the increased identification and reporting of crimes involving the victims of child sexual assault and child abuse. This increase was the result of educational programs in the early 1980s that provided the public with a heightened awareness of these crimes. It became evident that special investigative techniques, as well as a different investigative and prosecutorial approach, were needed to successfully investigate, prosecute and care for the child victim. Each detective receives specialized training in interviewing the victims of sexual assault and physical child abuse.
In 1989, the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) approach to investigation and prosecution was implemented in Burlington County. This approach couples the detectives and prosecutors with mental health agencies, the state Department of Children and Families, and educational and medical professionals. The purpose of the MDT approach is to minimize the impact of the criminal investigation on an already traumatized child victim. The MDT provides both pre- and post-prosecution assistance.
CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER
The Director of the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of the BCPO coordinates the MDT process. The Child Advocacy Center is staffed by a director and a caseworker and provides a child-friendly atmosphere for the victim upon being introduced to the criminal justice process. All juvenile victims of first- or second-degree child sexual assault or physical abuse that occur in Burlington County are interviewed at this facility. The MDT approach was established to place the child victim’s interests as paramount from the inception of the investigation to ensure that the victim receives supportive care during the course of the prosecution process. The staff of the Child Advocacy Center offers these services to victims and their families regardless of whether the defendant is prosecuted criminally.
MEGAN’S LAW UNIT
The Megan’s Law Unit, consisting of one assistant prosecutor and one detective, also falls within the purview of the Major Crimes Unit – Special Victims Section. The Megan’s Law Unit works closely with the Major Crimes Unit – Special Victims Section and local law enforcement liaisons to monitor and track the whereabouts of convicted sexual offenders. The Megan’s Law Unit is responsible for assigning an initial “tier” designation to each registrant convicted of certain sexually-related offenses by assessing their risk of re-offense under guidelines promulgated by the Attorney General and the Courts. After the Court approves a registrant’s tier designation, the unit provides notification to law enforcement, community organizations, schools and the general public where appropriate. The unit also prosecutes offenders charged with violating their registration and supervision requirements under Megan’s Law. Together, these three entities of the BCPO and law enforcement authorities strive to protect and help the children and citizens of Burlington County.
The SART/SANE Coordinator is responsible for the recruitment, training and supervision of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) who contract with the County to provide the medical forensic exams to victims of sexual assault. The coordinator is the liaison to the five participating Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) sites, four hospitals, with separate pediatric pavilion managed by Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania at Virtua Memorial in Mount Holly. Additionally, the SANE Coordinator maintains chain-of-custody for all evidence, writes policies and procedures, maintains case files, communicates with law enforcement agencies, trains participating community partners and oversees the response of the Sexual Assault Response Team. The coordinator reviews each case, response time and provides feedback to nurses on their roles as a SANE.
Currently 10 SANE nurses conduct exams. SANEs conduct medical forensic exams on victims of sexual abuse throughout the lifespan. In cases of chronic sexual abuse, an exam is done if the most recent abuse has occurred within five days of the exam. The purpose of the exam is to medically assess the victim (male or female), collect forensic evidence, document injuries or findings, take forensic photographs, provide medications to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections provide counseling and referrals, maintain chain-of-custody, and testify at trial.
During 2018, the SART/SANE program was responsible for responding to 104 calls and conducting 80 forensic examinations of individuals reporting being victims of sexual assault at the five exam sites in Burlington County.
SIGNIFICANT CASES PROSECUTED IN 2018
STATE V. HARRY THOMAS
In December 2017, a young girl disclosed that Thomas had sexually assaulted her between the ages of 5 and 9. After this was reported, other young girls also revealed that they were sexually assaulted by Thomas. All victims were between the approximate ages of 4 and 10 years old when the abusive behavior occurred and each believed at the time that they were the only victim of Thomas. The most recent assault occurred two to three years prior to the first disclosure. It should also be noted that Thomas was the Pastor of Come Alive Church in Medford Twp.
On February 16, 2018 Thomas pled guilty to one count of Aggravated Sexual Assault (First Degree), three counts of Sexual Assault (Second Degree) and one count of Endangering the Welfare of a Child (Second Degree). On July 27, 2018, Thomas was sentenced to 18 years in New Jersey state prison with 18 years of parole ineligibility.
STATE V. JERMAINE WARD
On June 24, 2018, it was reported by a friend of Jermaine Ward’s that she observed a video on Ward’s cell phone which showed his hand touching the vagina of a young child. After a joint investigation involved the Maple Shade Police Department and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, it was determined the child was four years old.
The defendant was long-time friend of the victim’s family. Also observed on the phone were images of young unclothed boys. Ward was questioned and admitted to touching the female child who he referred to as his “cousin.” He also admitted to watching boys and sometimes girls in the bathroom on more than one occasion. He admitted to filming two boys in the bathroom at his former school in Camden County. He admitted to being attracted to children.
The defendant pled guilty to Aggravated Sexual Assault (First Degree) and was sentenced on March 22, 2019 to the negotiated sentence of 17 years in New Jersey state prison with 17 years of parole ineligibility.