Sheriff: Couple forced 10-year-old to lie - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

UPDATE

Sheriff: Couple forced 10-year-old to lie

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

EUFAULA, AL (WTVM) -  A 10-year-old girl has admitted to investigators with the Barbour County Sheriff's Office that she lied about being molested, saying her mother and her mother's boyfriend put her up to it in what has become a bitter and ugly custody battle.

On Friday, Barbour County Sheriff LeRoy Upshaw announced the arrest of 26-year-old Gina Starling and her boyfriend, 30-year-old William Price for what he calls a total waste of time, personnel and money for the investigation into an innocent man. Starling and Price did not have custody of the girl at the time. An older male family member from Georgia had custody.

"The couple had coerced the child into saying that the other family member abused her. When we started investigating those two individuals, we were able to get charges on them and placed them under arrest.The child said that these two were making her say it in order for them to get custody of her," the sheriff told WTVM.

Sheriff Upshaw said the man's life and reputation could have been severely damaged if he had been arrested on the couple's initial false allegations.

"The person that was accused to start with, his reputation could have been ruined. He could have had charged against him and he's done nothing wrong that we can verify. Child custody is always a touchy issue and to make up allegations like this just in order to gain custody is wrong."

Starling is charged with false reporting to law enforcement and criminal conspiracy. Price is charged with criminal conspiracy.

Sheriff Upshaw stated that not only did it tie up his office with this type investigation, it also wasted the time and money of the Alabama Department Of Human Resources and the Pike Regional Child Advocacy Center.

Starling called the sheriff's office last year to report that her daughter had been molested.

The complaint initiated an investigation by the Sheriff's office as well as DHR and CAC. Persons of interest in Eufaula and Georgia had to be located and interviewed.

Starling's daughter had to be taken to Troy, AL for an interview at the Troy Regional Child Advocacy Center.

After further investigation, it was determined that the allegations that Ms. Starling and Mr. Price had made the child state against the adult were unfounded. A second investigation had to be initiated to build the case against Starling and Price for conspiracy, with more witnesses being interviewed and another trip to the CAC in Troy with the child.

Sheriff Upshaw said that these investigations took weeks to conclude and was an intentional act that caused his agency, DHR and CAC to waste valuable time and monies that needed to be spent on legitimate cases.

According to Upshaw, all investigations are a strain on his limited operating budget, but all reported child abuse cases in Barbour County are thoroughly investigated, and no expense is spared to investigate such cases. 

It's the ones that are totally unfounded that irritate him, knowing that the time and effort by all agency's involved could have been better spent on cases were a child is in danger and does need everyone's help.

Sheriff Upshaw stated if and when the suspects are found guilty, he'll consider asking the court to order restitution to his agency.

"We wasted a lot of resources and a lot of deputies' time and money trying to investigate the first allegations then we determined that it was untrue. We felt it necessary to go after the people that made these false allegations and at some point, get some restitution for the time spent on the initial complaint," he said in an interview Friday.

Starling and Price have bonded out of jail.

The 10-year-old child is staying with her grandparents.

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