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Teacher aide investigation continues

Sep. 12, 2013 @ 08:09 AM

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- State Police say they are cautious not to underestimate the potential for more victims in a sexual assault case that already involves former Hurricane High teacher's aide David Gibson and three former students, all as a former colleague says she witnessed behavior dating back to the mid-1990s that made her suspicious.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Cole Flowers said troopers are investigating an anonymous tip that named a fourth potential victim. The detachment also has received calls from others who recall interactions and inappropriate comments that made them uncomfortable.

Court filings show the case began to unravel last month with a 21-year-old, who told police Gibson offered her temporary housing in August only later to convince her to drink liquor and smoke marijuana. That led to sexual contact, which the former student with mental disabilities could not refuse due to her level of consciousness, a criminal complaint states.

That investigation revealed further sexual contact dating back to 1996, with two other students then ages 15 and 16, filings state.

Flowers said none of the new information to his department could be confirmed as coming from a victim. He acknowledged many victims will keep such abuse to themselves for fear of embarrassment or shame.

"No one here is at fault," he said in speaking of other potential victims. "They are a victim ... We want to hear anything anyone has to tell us. No matter how minuscule they might think it is, from any type of inappropriate behavior -- we want to hear it."

Rose McCormick, a retired special education teacher, worked with Gibson for approximately 15 years. The filings state she told police of one incident, during which she found Gibson and a female student in a locked classroom with lights off.

Wednesday she revealed that instance involved one of victims identified in the 1996 complaints. She recalled having reported the incident to Hurricane High's principal, but questioned Wednesday if such reports made any difference.

"I guess I was the only one that thought it was odd or I was the only(one)s that got upset," she said, indicating other faculty members noticed unusual interactions between Gibson and the student. "Nobody seemed to care or nobody wanted to get involved. Put it that way. They didn't want to get involved, and probably because they didn't want the principal yelling and screaming at them and telling them to mind their own business."

Putnam County Schools Superintendent Harold "Chuck" Hatfield could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Fellow county administrators Barbara Brazeau and Karen Nowviskie each cited personnel concerns in declining specific comment about Gibson's case, although Brazeau confirmed board members had accepted his resignation.

Brazeau and Nowviskie, neither of whom were in their current roles in the mid 1990s, said policies and procedures are in place to report such misconduct. Brazeau, the county's director of personnel, said every allegation merits an investigation.

"I ignore no allegations," she said. "The principals have been told the same thing. You do not turn a blind eye. I don't care about the credibility of the alleged victim. We investigate absolutely everything."

Brazeau was unaware of what, if any, steps Putnam County Schools had taken to communicate with current Hurricane High students or those who graduated during that time frame. Flowers said county officials once mentioned a plan to increase the number of counselors at the school.

Brazeau joined Flowers in suggesting anyone who might have been assaulted should contact authorities.

"We can't address something if it isn't brought to our attention," she said. "Not only are they embarrassed, but they are afraid of retaliation."

State Police urge anyone with information in the Gibson case to contact the Winfield detachment at 304-586-2000.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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