CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The first investigation happened in 2017, according to the grand jury report. The arrest, of Chambersburg constable Timothy Heefner, 64, on more than 700 charges related to human trafficking of more than 50 women and girls, didn’t happen until 2023.
Why the big gap during which, according to police documents, Heefner continued abusing victims, over whom he had power because they were incarcerated?
Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal explicitly said he couldn’t comment about the case because of the secrecy of a grand jury investigation and because charges have been filed.
But speaking generally about all cases, Fogal said “a lot of cases can be difficult if you don’t have a victim who’s willing to participate for reasons including fear of retaliation.”
Sure enough, the grand jury report in Heefner’s case said he thought “he could get away with it all because his victims were broken, sick, addicted and in the shadows. Many victims sadly agreed with him and avoided coming forward to police, for obvious reasons, and this grand jury process was necessary to that end,” court documents stated.
Police generally cannot force victims to cooperate with investigations, whereas grand juries can.
Did the fact that Heefner was an elected constable, rather than another kind of law enforcement agent, matter?
Absolutely not, said Ian Castaneira, an elected constable in Highspire Borough, Dauphin County, who is vice president of the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Constables but said he was speaking only for himself.
Critics of constables have said they lack accountability.
“I have no superior other than my wife,” joked Dave Bennett, who won a constable post in East Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County, as a write-in candidate.
As a constable, though, he answers to voters, and Castaneira said that’s an important detail.
“What elected official answers to anybody except the electorate?” Castaneira asked. “Does your senator answer to anybody besides the voters? The sheriff technically doesn’t answer to anybody.”
Castaneira said constables can be part of the solution to problems like backlogs of unserved warrants but don’t get the tools they need, and can’t fight for more, or for increases in the rates (which he said haven’t risen since 1994) they’re paid by courts for performing tasks because they’re not allowed to unionize.
Bennett said he hasn’t taken constable certification courses and thus can’t perform some constable duties because the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) charges thousands of dollars for the courses, which used to be free.
“So instead of doing what’s proper and collecting [all court] fees properly … and making sure the fees keep up with inflation, they say, ‘Oh the hell with it, we’re just going to turn around and charge the constables,” Castaneira said.
abc27 News has contacted the PCCD for comment.