Beaufort News

Criminal sexual conduct involving two children investigated at Lady's Island school

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office recently investigated a claim of criminal sexual conduct involving two children under the age of 5 that occurred near the playground of a private school on Lady's Island.

A 4-year-old girl told her mother three boys chased her and another girl behind a large oak tree near the playground at E.C. Montessori & Grade School during an after-school care program Nov. 29. The boys asked them if they wanted to do "something fun," and one of the boys pulled the girls' pants down to the ankles, according to a report from the Sheriff's Office.

The girl told her mother that the boy then kissed her private parts and "put two sticks" in her behind, according to the report.

The girl's mother sought help from the nonprofit Hope Haven of the Lowcountry, a children's advocacy and rape crisis center. In a forensic interview with the center, the girl gave a similar account, according to the report.

The girl said in the interview she told the teacher supervising the after-school program what happened.

According to a statement from the teacher, the girl told her the boys pulled down her pants and poked her with a stick. She told the teacher she was OK and continued playing without showing signs of having been hurt, the statement said.

The boy's parents did not cooperate in the investigation or allow their son to participate in an interview with Hope Haven, according to the Sheriff's Office. The case was closed in December with no criminal prosecution since there is no precedent for arresting a 4- or 5-year-old child for criminal sexual conduct, according to the report.

Assistant 14th Circuit Court Solicitor Jean McCormick said criminal intent typically is necessary to charge someone with an offense.

"A 4-year-old is unlikely to have criminal intent," she said Thursday.

The girl's parents removed her from the school, according to the Sheriff's Office. Her mother declined comment.

Chip Hodge, president of the board for E.C. Montessori, said if anything similar to what was described in the report occurred at the school, appropriate measures would have been taken. He declined further comment, saying the school must respect the privacy of its children, families and staff.