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#629: Abuse calls ignored, say friends of girl, 12 (fwd)
Published Friday, October 1, 1999, in the Miami Herald
Abuse calls ignored, say friends of girl, 12__ BY AJOWA NZINGA IFATEYO
Friends of a 12-year-old girl say they reported three times in three
weeks that she was being sexually abused in her home, but Pembroke Pines
Police and Department of Children and Families investigators failed to
take immediate action because they thought the child had made it up.
The girl did not get help until Tuesday, when the principal of the
Northwest Dade school she attends called Opa-locka police.
Pembroke Pines police said Thursday they were seeking a warrant to
arrest Willy Pompee, 20, for allegedly abusing the girl over the past
three years. The girl, originally from Haiti, has been living with
Pompee's family, first in Miami Lakes and now in Pembroke Pines, since
about 1996. A records check shows Miami police arrested Pompee on Sept.
19 for possession of marijuana and soliciting a prostitute on Biscayne
Boulevard. On Thursday, Harrison Bentley, owner of the John Casablancas
Modeling and Career Center, said the girl first called the agency about
two months ago because she had seen the center's television
advertisement about becoming a model. The girl befriended several women
at the agency and asked them to adopt her.
Eventually, she began telling a disturbing story: She was being used as
a maid, she was not being fed, she was up late at night cleaning, she
did not have school supplies, she was put outside on the patio in the
rain so she could see what it was like to live on the street.
Then it got even worse: She told them allegations of sexual abuse by
Willy Pompee, saying he would run through the house naked, visit her bed
at night -- and threaten to send her back to Haiti if she called
authorities. ``At the very beginning, I found it hard to believe,'' said
one of the women at the agency, who did not want to be identified for
fear of retaliation. She said the girl told them she reported the abuse
to Pompee's mother, Marie, but she would not believe her. The girl said
Marie Pompee called her a ``whore'' and a ``slut.'' The agency
employees tried to report her allegations to the state Department of
Children and Families. ``We had called [DCF] several times,'' said one
woman, who formerly was a teacher and was familiar with abuse reporting
procedures. After trying several unanswered or disconnected numbers from
the phone book, she said, she eventually got through to a DCF staffer.
``The [DCF] woman yelled at me: `This sounds ridiculous. You want us to
believe this is true? You want me to get out of my bed and come and
check on her?' '' So the women organized a three-way call among
themselves, the girl and Pembroke Pines police. About three weeks ago,
an officer named Mark went to the house to investigate, the agency
employee said. She said the officer got back to her and said:
``This was made up. If the little girl calls you again, call us and we
will tell parents and stop her from calling.'' For that incident, the
girl told the agency women she was beaten. Two of the women met the
child at school and noticed that she had bruises on her eye, stomach and
back, they said. Pembroke Pines Police spokeswoman Maryann Flanagan
confirmed that police visited the Pompee house twice, on Sept. 10 and
Sept. 15, but details were not available Thursday. It was also on Sept.
15 that Sonya Mitchell, principal of the Florida International
Academy in Opa-locka, made the first of five calls to DCF about the
child's welfare after the girl appeared to be in pain. Mitchell told
police she made a complaint to a ``Mrs. Walsh'' at DCF on Sept. 15,
according to a police report. But she said she never received a call
back. She said she tried to call Walsh again on Sept. 16, 17, 22 and 24,
but never got through to her. On Tuesday, she contacted Opa-locka
Police. DCF officials tell a different version of the case. They say
they started their investigation about the same time of the first
Pembroke Pines Police report Sept. 10, said Lynette Beal, a spokeswoman
for the department. Since then, the department and local law enforcement
have been working together on the investigation, she said. Beal said she
had no knowledge of Mitchell's attempts to contact DCF, but said
she would report that information to her superiors. She said department
policy is to consider all information when conducting an investigation.
``We can't go into any specifics on any case,'' she said. ``Law
enforcement has taken the lead, and we have been working with them.''