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Woman says she reported prison guard's rape to a counselor, then he assaulted her, too

Three former inmates at the Chillicothe Correctional Center say in federal lawsuits that a prison guard sexually assaulted them. One of them may have to go back there after the Missouri Attorney General filed a petition with the state’s highest court to have her original sentence reimposed.
Three former inmates at the Chillicothe Correctional Center say in federal lawsuits that a prison guard sexually assaulted them. One of them may have to go back there after the Missouri Attorney General filed a petition with the state’s highest court to have her original sentence reimposed. Google

Karen Backues Keil says a guard raped her more than 20 times while she was serving a six-year prison term at Chillicothe Correctional Center.

She says she told a mental health counselor at the prison about it, then he sexually assaulted her, too.

Keil's allegations are outlined in a federal lawsuit filed this week against the guard, the counselor and unnamed employees who supervised them for the Missouri Department of Corrections and a department contractor.

“It was hell," Keil said during a phone interview Tuesday.

She said she continues to fight the trauma caused by the prison assaults more than a year after her release.

"I thought I could shove all this down inside me and not have to think about it again, but it just doesn’t work that way,” Keil said.

Keil's suit alleges years of criminal behavior by prison guard Edward Bearden, escalating from inappropriate pat-downs in which he groped her breasts and butt to repeated rapes from 2012 to 2015 that left her physically and emotionally injured.

Bearden still works at the prison, according to the suit. He did not respond to messages left Tuesday at a home number and at the prison.

A Missouri Department of Corrections spokeswoman said the department could not comment on pending litigation.

Keil's suit says that after she was transferred to a different part of the prison, Bearden kept asking other inmates about her and mailed her a card from outside the prison "expressing his feelings for her."

After she was released from prison in February 2017, he allegedly kept trying to find her by asking other inmates whether she was married or where she might be working.

Keil said she sought counseling while in prison because of the abuse Bearden inflicted. But according to her lawsuit, within a month of starting therapy sessions with counselor John Thomas Dunn, he also started to sexually assault her.

The suit says Dunn sometimes couched the assaults as part of her therapy, saying things like "Did Bearden do it like this?"

Dunn also allegedly told her that if she reported Bearden's assaults to the Department of Corrections, she would likely be put in solitary confinement.

Dunn did not respond to a phone message left at his home in Kansas City Tuesday.

Dunn pleaded guilty last year to sexual conduct with a prisoner and is scheduled to be sentenced June 12. Keil's attorney, John Ammann, said Keil was not the victim in that incident.

Lance Sandage, an attorney representing Dunn in the criminal case, said he and Dunn discussed the lawsuit Tuesday but had not reviewed the complaint in detail.

“We have no comment at this time,” Sandage said.

At the time he was charged, Dunn was working for Corizon Health, which had the contract to handle all health care for the Missouri prisons. But Keil's suit says when he assaulted her, he was working for the Chillicothe prison's previous mental health contractor, MHM Services, which is also named as a defendant in Keil's suit.

A St. Louis attorney representing the Virginia-based company did not respond to a phone message left Tuesday.

Keil was transferred to the Chillicothe prison in July 2011 while serving time for forgery and theft.

Keil said she had nightmares about Dunn and Bearden for months after she left the prison. She said that after getting therapy, she wanted to speak up for others in the prison system who are being abused.

“I can’t get over it," Keil said. "It’s there every second of the day. I have to think about it and I have to fight those thoughts in my head that I deserved this. And I didn’t. Nobody deserves what I went through.”

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