Creating a South Valley DA unit to protect children

April 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A South Valley district attorney's office is using a new approach to tackle more crimes against children and keep perpetrators behind bars.

Now, a group of attorneys are working together to find justice for the young victims.

In the last six months the Tulare County District Attorney's Office has prosecuted several high-profile cases where children are victims.

In November of 2012-a Visalia father was arrested for beating his six-week old baby to death. 30-year old Trevor Bishop was arraigned last month for the severe beating of his girlfriend's 3-year-old. And just last week, former deputy Michael Risenhoover was sentenced to 88-years in prison for the rape and sexual assault of 13-year-old girl.

These six attorneys will now be working closer than ever as a team to prosecute the cases with some of Tulare County's youngest crime victims.

Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward has created a "crimes against children" unit, taking the department's model it's been using for successfully prosecuting child sexual assault cases, and expanding it to include all crimes against children.

Ward said, "We're going to have other attorneys that do nothing but a myriad of offenses, from physical abuse to neglect, to drug endangerment abduction, online exploitation and a number of crime types."

Right now the Tulare County DA's Office is prosecuting more child homicides than ever before, with eight pending in court. Several years ago the department would only see one or two a year.

"The reality of our community right now though as it appears by all indications are that crime types are up and these are the homes that our children are growing up in," Ward said.

Prosecutor Melissa Chabra said, "It gives me a real sense of purpose it makes me want to do my job makes me want to come in and respond to the motions and work the long hours because somebody has to fight for these kids."

The attorneys in the "Crimes against Children" unit are passionate about the work they do and say working together helps them put together a better case and find justice for the young victims.

Prosecutor Matthew Darby said, "When you're working with a team you can collaborate with different people and get different ideas that you yourself wouldn't come up with on your own."

The formation of this new DA unit is timely. April is national child abuse prevention month.


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