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Update: Additional charges filed in Etowah County child sex abus - abc27 WHTM

Update: Additional charges filed in Etowah County child sex abuse case after third victim comes forward

Posted: Updated:
Roy Dean Pruett Roy Dean Pruett
ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. - Etowah County investigators filed additional sexual abuse charges Friday against a former employee of a juvenile care facility

Deputies arrested 61-year-old Roy Dean Pruett on Thursday afternoon.  The initial charges were two counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a child less than 12 years old and two counts of first-degree sodomy.

A third victim reported abuse after Pruett's arrest, and investigators added an additional charge of first degree sexual abuse.

"There are multiple children involved and the investigation is ongoing. There could be additional children involved. At this time we don't know. Anyone who preys on children deserves to be behind bars," sheriff's office spokesperson Natalie Barton told ABC 33/40 on Thursday.

Deputies said Friday that the abuse happened at Pruett's home in Gadsden.  Until recently, he was employed as activity director of the Eagle Rock Boys Ranch, a group home for at-risk boys between the ages of nine and 19 years old.  Investigators declined to comment on whether the victims were juveniles at Eagle Rock, but said the abuse did not take place at the juvenile care facility.

“This is a terrible crime involving innocent children and reports of this type are becoming too common," Sheriff Todd Entrekin said.

“These children are brave, they came forward to help us put this predator behind bars. A special thanks is due to the James M. Barrie Center for their investigative help,” he said.

Eagle Rock executive director Scott Hilton said he terminated Pruett's employment earlier in July for reasons unrelated to the accusations of sexual abuse.   

The victims told investigators the abuse began in November 2012.

“I appreciate the hard work the Sheriff's investigators put into this case,” district attorney Jimmie Harp said.

“Cases of this nature are particularly disturbing. The victimization of a child is something that we, as a community, cannot tolerate and we intend to see that those who would prey on children are brought to justice.”

An Etowah County judge set Pruett's bond at $300,000 and he remained in the county jail Thursday evening.

Scott Hilton provided the following statement to ABC 33/40:









The Eagle Rock family is devastated to learn of the arrest of Roy Pruett. We understand that the arrest does not prove guilt but we can assume that the Sheriff’s Department would not make an arrest of this nature until they felt confident that some misconduct had occurred.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim(s). In the midst of much confusion and activity related to this “case” we are most mindful that a child’s life has been negatively affected and forever changed. May we not lose sight of this fact.

On the afternoon of July 8 Etowah County DHR received a report of alleged abuse of a child. The report did not come from Eagle Rock. Therefore a DHR investigator contacted me by phone. Within 20 minutes of that phone call, in accordance with Eagle Rock policy, I placed Mr. Pruett on administrative leave and instructed him to have no contact with any Eagle Rock resident until further notice.

Our main concern at this time is protecting the privacy of our boys. We understand that this is a sensational story and will attract the attention of news reporters. We respectfully request that there be no filming nor photographs taken at our ranches or of our children or staff. We also request that no interviews be sought with any of our boys or staff. They are all innocent and all have private lives to live. We appreciate your respect for their privacy.

Eagle Rock has cooperated fully with the investigation and the Sheriff’s Department has told us repeatedly that neither the ranch nor any other employees are being accused of any criminal activity. Furthermore, it should be noted that Eagle Rock has not conducted any part of the investigation. We applaud and appreciate the work of the Sheriff’s Department, the DHR, and the Berrie Center. We are fully confident they are doing a thorough investigation and as a community we should all be thankful that such agencies exist to protect our children.

ANY CONJECTURE THAT THE VICTIM(S) IN THIS CASE ARE EAGLE ROCK RESIDENTS IS PURELY SPECULATIVE. The identity of the victim(s) is strictly confidential and those conducting the investigation are the only individuals who have that information. We wish to make this very clear because our boys live normal lives in the community and people know where they live. It would be unfair for them to live with this stigma. Furthermore, the nature of the questioning we have received from investigators leads us to believe the alleged misconduct occurred at a location other than Eagle Rock. There has been no request for video footage from our facilities nor has anyone toured them. Our greatest concern for our boys is that the public not stigmatize them by assuming they are the victim(s). However, this in no way implies that we are not concerned for children who are not in our care.

Mr. Pruett has worked with youth in Etowah County for over 30 years. Our check of the Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect as well as our FBI background check via fingerprint revealed no reported incident or accusations of abuse or misconduct involving Mr. Pruett. We can only hope and pray that if the allegations are true they will be limited to recent events.

The past seven days have been the most difficult days I’ve had since Eagle Rock opened in 1994. Even though I am not accused of any crime, I bear the responsibility of knowing I hired Mr. Pruett and thus endorsed him as a person who could be trusted. My thoughts and prayers are with the alleged victim(s) but I must now focus on my own emotional wellbeing and that of my staff and our boys. No one from Eagle Rock will be speaking to the press, media or anyone outside of their immediate family about this matter. We all need a time of privacy and healing. Any questions may be directed to me personally via email at scott@eaglerockboys.org.

Your prayers are appreciated,

Scott Hilton, Executive Director, Eagle Rock Ranch
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