ELKINS - The alleged victim in a child abuse case testified during a preliminary hearing in Randolph County Magistrate Court Tuesday morning.
JoLinda Effinger, 47, of Pennsylvania, was arrested in January on one count of child abuse causing injury, a felony. According to the criminal complaint, Cpl. K.A. Corley of the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police met with the alleged victim, Effinger's 8-year-old son, and his father on Nov. 18.
Corley wrote the alleged victim explained to him that his parents were separated and he said he wanted to live with his father. The boy said this upset Effinger "which escalated to the point where (she) grabbed (his) face with her hands and scratched his face with her fingernails, causing injury to (his) face," according to the complaint.
The alleged victim said he had to go to a hospital for treatment, and Corley wrote that he observed the injuries on the victim's face.
Corley testified in Magistrate Court Tuesday that the alleged victim and his father reported the incident to police in Pennsylvania and Morgantown, before reporting it to the state police in Elkins. Corley said the child was taken to the emergency room the same day the incident was reported.
In the alleged victim's testimony, the boy told the court he received the injuries while visiting his grandmother in Elkins. He said he was watching television when Effinger got mad at him, slapped and scratched him and said "this is what your dad does."
"I want the record to reflect that (the alleged victim) is describing (Effinger) using her hands in a claw-like fashion and grabbing and pulling his skin," Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Lori Haynes said.
The alleged victim told the court he began to cry as a result of the scratching and that this was the first time something like this had happened in his family.
When Haynes asked how Effinger punishes him, the alleged victim said she usually spanks him with a belt on his bare bottom. The boy said his father punishes him by taking away his dessert or access to his Playstation.
The alleged victim said, as a result of the incident with Effinger, he is "a little nervous around her" and "scared." He also said Effinger told him to say it was his cousin who had "caused him to scratch" his face.
Defense attorney Chris Cooper called upon the alleged victim's grandmother to testify. She said Effinger only put her hands on the alleged victim in a "loving way."
"The state has met its burden in this case," Haynes told the court during closing arguments. "The victim explained eloquently before this court how he got his injuries. The defendant has abused the victim, who had to seek medical treatment for his injuries. She then tried to get him to change his story."
"What we have here is a matter where a child told a tall tale, which the grandmother then straightened out," Cooper said. "This is a custody battle where one parent has coached a child to speak to the detriment of the other."
After closing arguments, Chief Magistrate Ben Shepler weighed the testimonies and decided probable cause existed for the case to move forward.
"We have heard from two witnesses who were both credible," Shepler said. "But I find that the burden of probable cause has been found and the matter will be bound over for the grand jury in Circuit Court."
Shepler said both Effinger and the alleged victim's father must adhere to the bond agreement set forth by the Pennsylvania court, and neither party is permitted to speak to the alleged victim about anything regarding the matter. Effinger is also only allowed supervised visitation with the alleged victim as a term of the bond as well, Shepler said.
Effinger is free on a $35,000 cash or surety bond.
Contact Chad Clem by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.