Federal agencies are investigating a western Missouri women’s prison where current and former workers have been accused of sexually assaulting inmates.
Karen Backues Keil is one of four women who have sued over the alleged abuse at Chillicothe Correctional Center. But court documents filed this month by her attorneys said her suit has been put on hold at the feds’ request.
“Recently, counsel for the parties were notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the department was investigating the possibility of federal criminal charges against one or more of the defendants in this action,” the documents state.
John Ammann, the lead attorney on Keil’s civil suit, said he couldn’t comment on the case.
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FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton referred questions to the Department of Justice, which did not respond to a request for comment.
The defendants in Keil’s suit include Edward Bearden, a former guard at Chillicothe who retired last year. He could not be reached for comment. Keil says Bearden raped her more than 20 times while she was incarcerated.
She says that when she told a mental health counselor at the prison about it, he sexually assaulted her too. That counselor, John Thomas Dunn, has denied the allegations. But he pleaded guilty in state court to sexually assaulting a different inmate and was sentenced last year to four years in prison. The judge had him spend 120 days of shock time in prison and suspended the remainder of the sentence. Dunn is now on probation.
Dunn’s Kansas City-based attorney, Lance Sandage, said he didn’t know if his client was a target of the federal probe.
“I’m familiar that there’s an ongoing investigation, but that’s all I know,” Sandage said.
Two other former inmates have also filed suits accusing Bearden of rape or sexual assault in the prison. A fourth woman, Teri Dean, who is still incarcerated, filed a federal suit Friday accusing Bearden and three other guards of sexual assault.
Two of those guards still work at Chillicothe, court documents say. Dean has been transferred to a prison in Vandalia, Mo., near St. Louis.
Dean’s suit also names as a defendant Anne Precythe, the director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, for failing to stop the alleged sexual misconduct.
According to the suit, Bearden sexually assaulted Dean for several months after Keil filed her suit.
The suit also says Dean reported the abuse and prison employees retaliated in several ways, including by withholding medication for her Crohn’s disease.
Karen Pojmann, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said the department doesn’t comment on pending litigation but noted that Bearden no longer works for the agency.
Keil was released from prison early and is now living in Georgia, but the Missouri attorney general has tried repeatedly to have her original sentence reinstated.