How many years, hearings before an admitted child molester is jailed?
By Samantha Perry
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
April 24, 2016
|Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph.|
Timothy Probert is a bastard. I’ve waited two years, four months, 13 days and roughly 17 hours to write those words.
Under the guise of a Christian face, Probert used a carefully manipulated role of prominent community member and child of God to gain the trust of adults and then sexually molest their children.
What could be worse?
Since late 2013 I have covered this case as an impartial journalist — all the while knowing the evil acts perpetrated within Probert’s home. I have done my best to report the facts — and only the facts — when covering the story.
It’s not been easy.
In our role as journalists we learn things — know things. We hear the off-the-record comments. We read detailed case reports and court documents. We see the victims and their families in the courtroom. We report the facts and testimony, but some information can not be shared. And that knowledge can eat at us from the inside.
Probert was a former Westminster Church youth volunteer and mentor for Mercer County’s Working to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Program. He was also a master of disguise.
He brought children into his home, gave them alcohol and pornography, and then molested them.
Last Monday he pleaded guilty to 37 charges related to child sexual abuse. They include seven counts of first-degree sexual abuse, three counts of third-degree sexual assault, one count of second-degree sexual assault, one count of first-degree sexual assault, 24 counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, and one count of delivery of a controlled substance.
At Probert’s preliminary hearing in February 2014, Sgt. M.D. Clemons, with the Crimes Against Children Unit of the West Virginia State Police, testified about the acts, which included “mutual masturbation” between Probert and the victims, as well as oral and anal sex.
During the multitude of court appearances since his initial arrest, Probert has displayed a sense of smugness and arrogance. As a reporter, my thought is that he believed he would never be caught, and that he was socially superior to some of his victims.
Probert’s twisted behavior could have been stopped years ago when two children had the gumption and fortitude to report him.
In 1999, one of two brothers in the WE CAN program who would stay at Probert’s house on the weekends told his mother about inappropriate contact. The boy said Probert would watch them shower, give them wine during dinner and come into their room at night. According to a criminal complaint, the youth also stated he would “wake up with the accused touching him inappropriately.”
Probert was dropped from the WE CAN program and an investigation conducted, but no charges were filed.
Sadly, the tale from two at-risk kids was not enough to stop a monster masquerading as an upstanding, righteous man.
Finally, he was caught. And much credit must go to Westminster Presbyterian Church pastor Jonathan Rockness.
When alerted to Probert’s behavior, church leaders did not hide their heads in the sand or attempt to cover up the violations. Instead, they launched an in-depth investigation. They identified victims, questioned Probert and turned the information over to Sgt. Clemons. She, in turn, built a rock-solid case.
On Dec. 12, 2013, Probert was finally arrested for his crimes. He immediately bonded out.
Despite his guilty plea, it will be about two months before Probert is sentenced. The state requires detailed reports be conducted before a sentencing, and these take time.
So last Friday, Probert was back in court once again. Prosecuting attorneys George Sitler and Kelli Harshbarger were requesting that his bond be revoked and he be remanded into custody. I entered the courtroom expecting that the revocation was a sure thing.
Instead, those at the hearing were stunned when retired Fayette County Judge Charles Vickers allowed him to remain out on bond. Vickers was assigned to the case in 2015 after Mercer County Circuit Court judges Omar Aboulhosn, Derek Swope and William “Bill” Sadler recused themselves citing conflicts of interest.
Following years of legal wrangling, emotions in the courtroom were high and victims were understandably upset that the bad guy would once again be walking free.
Remembering the years of court testimony and hearings during which I listened to the dirty secrets of Tim Probert, I, too, was shocked.
After last week’s hearings, I spoke with the mother of one of the victims. On both occasions she was crying. We talked for a few moments, then hugged. I could not — and still can not — begin to imagine the pain she and her family are feeling.
I also have overwhelming respect and admiration for all of the victims who came forward and recounted the horrors so that a child molester would pay for his crimes.
So yes, Timothy Probert is a bastard. One who admitted to horrible atrocities, yet is still not behind bars.