courtesy photo/Howell County Jail

Child abuse investigation leads to charges

An investigation into the conditions at a Howell County home has led to sex crime charges. The Howell County Sheriff’s Office opened the investigation in October 2022 when a forensic interviewer with the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) contacted law enforcement. CAC had interviewed four children based on a hotline tip, says the probable cause statement filed by Corporal Rick Fox. 
The children named two adults, James Young, 44, of Pottersville, and Daniece Clinton, 34, address unknown. Court documents describe the adults as “the parents to most of, if not all, the minor children in question.”
The probable cause statement goes on to describe the conditions and experiences in the home consistently described by all four children in their interviews. 
The children report consistent exposure to drug use, both marijuana and methamphetamine, as well as being encouraged by Young to use marijuana. The adults were described as “high all the time.”
The living conditions were primitive with no water or electricity. The children were unable to bathe or wash clothes for months at a time and had to burn clothes and books to keep warm. They relied on neighbors regularly to bring them water and food. 
All the children described profound neglect, reporting there was “rarely” food in the home and that they “always felt like they were starving.” They were also supposedly homeschooled, “but no learning/education took place.” The adults were reportedly, “gone all the time,” and once, the children were left alone for nine consecutive days. 
Physical and psychological abuse also featured heavily in the interviews. The children reported being hit in the face by Young with a closed fist. They also disclosed a story about being held at gunpoint by Clinton who allegedly threatened to, “blow their brains out” if they moved from a couch. 
Neighbors interviewed in the investigation corroborate the home conditions. The children often looked hungry and were, “lacking water, food, and electricity.”
Court documents note the children have since been removed the home and placed with a family member where they “feel safe for the first time in their life.”
Cpl. Fox’s statement reveals that multiple attempts to reach Young and Clinton by phone and by in person contact have been unsuccessful. 
“It is my belief, the only way to speak with either subject is through the court system,” reads the statement. 
Young was charged with two felonies on April 13 by the Howell County Sheriff’s Office. Clinton has not been charged as of press time. According to Lieutenant Torey Thompson, this investigation is ongoing, and he expects charges to be issued against the mother.
Young has been charged with one count of statutory sodomy against a person under the age of 12 and statutory rape against a person under the age of 12. Additional court documents indicate instances of sexual abuse stretching back to June 2020. 
Young pled not guilty on April 17. On April 23, Young’s attorney filed a motion to raise the security level of the case and for a change of judge. It remains a matter of public record as of press time. This matter is scheduled for a case review and hearing on pending motions on May. 
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