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Lawsuit: York County children & youth agency placed child with sex offender

Written by Brandie Kessler/The York Daily Record | Oct 4, 2017 10:58 AM
Witmer-Ronald.jpg

Ronald Witmer. (Photo: Submitted)

(York) -- The York County Office of Children, Youth and Families placed a boy in the care of a convicted pedophile who then sexually abused him, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Ronald Lee Witmer, 50, pleaded guilty in August to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and corruption of minors in connection to the sexual abuse of the 13-year-old boy who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Witmer is in York County Prison awaiting sentencing.

In separate York County cases, Witmer pleaded guilty in 1989 to charges of indecent assault and corruption of minors, and pleaded guilty in 1990 to indecent exposure and corruption of minors, according to court records. 

On Tuesday, the 13-year-old boy and his mother filed a federal lawsuit alleging that York County CYF has a mission of protecting children, "including from sexual victimization," but placed the boy in Witmer's care. Witmer "heinously sexually abused" the boy, the lawsuit says.

In the spring of 2017, Witmer was arrested and charged with sexually abusing the boy, according to court records and the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that the caseworkers assigned to the boy's case either knew "or should have known" that Witmer was not a suitable foster parent and "was a convicted pedophile."

Attorney Benjamin Andreozzi, who is representing the 13-year-old and his mother, said it took him minutes to find Witmer's criminal history by doing an Internet search.

"The first time the client called, we put him on hold and went online," Andreozzi said. Within a few minutes, he found Witmer's arrest record on the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts website.

Witmer is not listed on the Pennsylvania State Police Megan's Law website. State Police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said state police records indicate Witmer's sentences for the convictions in 1989 and 1990 expired "well before" Megan's Law was instituted on April 21, 1996.

The lawsuit alleges that York County CYF was "experiencing significant turmoil" at the time the boy was placed with Witmer, and didn't "have adequate staff to properly handle the placement of children by the County," and that those problems "led directly to the oversights that resulted in (the boy's) placement with Witmer."

Andreozzi's firm has represented hundreds of survivors of child sexual abuse, he said. "This is one of the most egregious oversights that I've seen." 

Andreozzi said the lawsuit has been filed against the county as well as individual staff members, caseworkers Nan Mavor, Cathy Lyman and Jacy Nemec, because those people had an obligation.

"If those people are tasked by the institution to protect children, then those people need to be held responsible," Andreozzi said. "Opening up the gates through civil litigation, we're going to be able to air (York County office of Children, Youth and Families') dirty laundry" and prompt change.

York County spokesman Mark Walters said York County doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Mavor, Lyman and Nemec couldn't be reached for comment.

 

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and York Daily Record. 

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