When Sabrina Morrison was attacked and raped by her uncle at age 13, she did everything that she was supposed to do. She reported the assault to a trusted teacher who alerted the police. She then submitted to the invasive exam that goes with completing a rape kit for the police, and the exam tested positive, but for some reason the police stopped there. They never collected a blood sample from the girl’s uncle, even though the lab had found traces of semen and requested the police to collect a sample from the uncle.
And, in a move that went beyond negligence and enters the realm of criminal, authorities allegedly told Sabrina’s mother, Vikki Morrison, that there was no evidence of a sexual assault.
“I was told straight to my face there was no evidence of any trauma or any sexual assault, so we thought she was lying the whole time,” said Vikki Morrison, Sabrina’s mother. Because of that, Sabrina’s desperate complaint about her uncle was simply dismissed as a “wild fantasy.”
Sabrina had done everything she was supposed to do — but it still wasn’t enough.
The first rape occurred in 2007. And because of police negligence, as well as the fact that they told Sabrina’s parents that nothing had happened, Patrick Morrison was able to continue raping his niece for more than four years.
In 2009, Sabrina became pregnant by her uncle. The pregnancy was eventually terminated due to complications, and still, no one believed her.
Sabrina spoke out about her uncle raping her again in 2012, bravely ignoring her uncle’s threats that he would kill her if she told. And again, no one believed her. In fact, her parents dismissed Sabrina’s claims against her uncle as their daughter “acting out” and sent her to live in a group home.
The rapes occurred in Maricopa County, Arizona, and were handled by infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office, which has been under investigation for years, with at least 400 sex-crime cases deemed as being “inadequately addressed.” Sabrina’s case was one of these, and her case was re-opened. A blood sample was requested from her uncle, and the case basically solved itself. In addition to the DNA evidence, Morrison confessed to raping Sabrina over the course of four years — four years after the initial rape had been reported.
Morrison pleaded guilty to one count of child molestation and two counts of attempted child molestation. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Sabrina Morrison has been awarded $3.5 million settlement, to be paid for by Maricopa County, in an attempt to compensate for their botched investigation. Sabrina’s lawyer, Charles Surrano, expressed disgust for the way his client’s case was handled.
“An eighth-grader could have solved this case. They sat on the evidence, closed the case and never obtained the sample necessary to have the DNA testing done.”
Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is being accused of withholding any findings from the ongoing investigation of his office because of his political ambitions, was dismissive and defensive about the case involving Sabrina and her uncle.
“That slipped through the cracks, we did due diligence after the fact that we found out, and we acted on it,” said Sheriff Arpaio in a press conference on Wednesday.
Sabrina’s family is still outraged.
“How do you feel when you find out your daughter’s been telling you the truth and you didn’t know it the whole time?” Vikki Morrison asked in an interview with CBS.
As the Seattle Times reports, the settlement awarded to Sabrina is simply the “latest in a long string of legal settlements against Arpaio’s office.” Maricopa County has paid out more than $68 million in judgments, settlements and legal fees for the sheriff’s office during Arpaio’s 22-year tenure.
Child abuse of any sort is a crime hard to comprehend for most people, and disabled children are even more vulnerable. Just this week, a woman was arrested for torturing a little girl with special needs — for more on that, click here. And for more on Sheriff Joe’s Arpaio’s shocking way of handling crimes against children, click here.
[Image via Phoenix News Times]