A second sexual assault lawsuit has been filed against a guard at a Missouri women's prison.
The suit filed in federal court Tuesday alleges that Edward Bearden, an officer at the Chillicothe Correctional Center, assaulted inmate Lynnsey Christie Betz in a supply closet, causing her to bleed from her vagina.
The suit says the assault happened after an escalating series of inappropriate words and actions by Bearden. It also names as defendants two of Bearden's superiors at the prison and the Missouri Department of Corrections official who is in charge of preventing prison rape.
"Other prison officials knew or should have known he was sexually assaulting Plaintiff and did nothing to prevent or stop the attacks," the suit says. "Plaintiff has suffered severe physical and emotional trauma due to the actions of all Defendants."
On Tuesday, a cell phone associated with Bearden had a recording that stated, “The person you are trying to reach is not accepting calls at this time.”
The suit says he still works at the prison, but employees there said they were unable to say whether that was still the case, or get him on the phone.
Karen Pojmann, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said Bearden is still employed by the department "but is scheduled to retire shortly."
"I’m afraid we aren’t able to comment on the lawsuit," Pojmann said.
The suit comes on the heels of one filed by another former inmate, Karen Backues Keil. Keil says Bearden raped her repeatedly from 2012 to 2015, and after she told a mental health counselor at the prison about it, the counselor assaulted her, too.
The counselor, John Thomas Dunn, has since pleaded guilty to illegal sexual contact with another inmate.
Both lawsuits were filed by a team of attorneys from the Saint Louis University Legal Clinic and the St. Louis firm Kamykowski, Gavin & Smith.
“The (Missouri) Department of Corrections has faced several publicized lawsuits from employees facing sexual harassment by fellow employees,” said Brendan Roediger, one of the SLU Law professors working the cases. “What has remained hidden is the fact that women prisoners are being sexually assaulted with literally nowhere to run to get away from their molesters.”
Betz, 33, of Trenton, Mo., was serving time for burglary when she met Bearden, according to the suit.
Betz was working in the prison's vocational tech department at the time. According to the suit, that area of the prison has no surveillance cameras.
The lawsuit says Bearden started harassing her with comments like “I like the way your ass moves," then later grabbed her crotch in full view of another inmate. Betz said she told that inmate not to leave her alone with Bearden after that because she feared what he might do.
But Bearden cornered her in the supply closet one day, the suit says, and tried to forcibly kiss her and pull down her pants. As she struggled against him, he allegedly shoved his hand down her pants and "penetrated her vagina with his fingers" before she could break free.
"After this attack, Plaintiff had bleeding and pain from her vagina," the suit says. "Plaintiff was physically and emotionally injured by this attack."
Other than Bearden, the only named defendant in Betz and Keil's suits is Vevia Sturm, the Prison Rape Elimination Act supervisor for the Missouri Department of Corrections. Two unnamed defendants, Bearden's supervisor and the person responsible for implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act at the Chillicothe prison, are listed as John or Jane Doe.
Sturm declined to comment through another employee in the state corrections department's PREA unit.
The plaintiffs' lawyers say both Betz and Keil feared they would be placed in solitary confinement if they reported Bearden.