KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman who alleges that she was sexually assaulted more than 50 times while incarcerated at a Missouri prison is the fifth to sue a former guard amid a federal investigation of the facility.
The latest lawsuit against Edward Bearden, a former guard at Chillicothe Correctional Center, is set for trial in July 2021. Four other civil cases have been lodged against him, but no criminal charges have been filed.
The FBI and the Department of Justice have been conducting an investigation of the Chillicothe prison where Bearden and other corrections officers were accused of dozens of assaults, rape and harassment. As many as nine women have also alleged misconduct by John Thomas Dunn, a mental health counselor at the prison. He was sentenced to probation in 2018 after pleading guilty to sexual conduct with a prisoner.
“I think there is a systematic issue in that prison specifically, and I think it is not being addressed and I don’t know how many lawsuits it’s going to take for people to take it seriously,” said Jenifer Snow, an attorney working on the lawsuits. “It blows my mind.”
Anne Precythe, director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, is also named as a defendant. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office, which represents Bearden and Precythe, declined to comment on the pending litigation.
The latest woman to sue was imprisoned at Chillicothe for a nonviolent offense from May 2015 to November 2017. The Associated Press generally does not publish the names of sex crime victims without their permission.
The woman alleges that the abuse started after she was accepted into a cosmetology program and was tasked with retrieving cleaning supplies from a storage closet. The lawsuit says that Bearden, who was employed by the prison system from November 2008 to September 2018, followed her into the closet and forced her to perform oral sex. She said her roommates noticed bruises on her that looked like handprints.
The four other lawsuits recounted similar circumstances, including assaults in utility closets, a laundry room and other areas where no surveillance cameras were present.
The FBI referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri, which declined to comment.