‘She looked bad:’ Observant store clerk saves teen from alleged abuse situation
FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX/Gray News) – A convenience store employee in Ohio is being credited with rescuing a teen from her stepfather’s alleged abuse after recognizing the girl’s injuries during an encounter last month.
Rebecca Austin works at Hamilton Quick Mart, where the teen visited on Aug. 15 or 16, according to Fairfield Township police.
Austin said the teen entered the store “dazed and confused,” walked around a bit and approached the counter. She had only $1 in her pocket, Austin said. The girl asked if there was something she could buy with it.
When Austin looked up, she said she couldn’t believe her eyes.
“She had all these marks and bruises,” Austin explained. “We first thought she had a choker that the kids wear, but it was a bruise from the ties that he used on her.”
Austin let the girl keep her money. She then fed her a sandwich and a soda before approaching her to ask who had hurt her.
“She said, ‘Nobody, I fell down a hill,’” Austin recalled the girl saying.
Immediately she knew that was a lie, because the blood vessels in the girl’s eyes were busted, and her face was bruised.
“She looked bad,” Austin said.
Fairfield Township police later confirmed the teen had injuries to her eyes, neck and wrists as well as burns on her palms.
Eventually, Austin took the teen outside, where she became visibly anxious.
“She kept saying, ‘If my stepdad comes by, he’ll see me and make me go,’” Austin said. “I said, ‘Nobody’s going to make you leave.’”
The teen was shaking, Austin recalls. Then she told Austin some things her family members had supposedly told her, a combination of alleged threats and lies to keep her from fleeing.
“If she called the cops, they [the police] would be mean to her,” Austin said. “They wouldn’t help her. And if she went to foster care, they would have to kill a kid for her to go.”
Austin succeeded in calming the teen down and called 911.
The situation came to light Wednesday, a month after the teen’s stepfather, James Evans, admitted to police that he’d bound her feet with a ratchet strap and zip-tied her to a bed.
According to a police bodycam recording obtained by WXIX, Evans claimed to have done so because the girl had allegedly threatened to kill him as well as the girl’s mother and step-grandfather.
He said he woke up with the teen standing over his head with a kitchen knife. It isn’t clear when this allegedly happened, but the officer inferred it happened the previous night and asked whether Evans had called police. Evans replied that he had not.
He told the officer the ties were intended to keep the girl from running away. He also vaguely mentioned their hope that she would see a counselor.
Police said, Sarah Evans, the teen’s mother, cut her free at least once so she could use the bathroom but tied her back up afterward.
It isn’t known whether the alleged abuse happened on more than one occasion, nor is it known how the girl escaped and came to the convenience store.
EMS transported her to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Liberty Township due to the severity of her injuries. She is currently with children’s services.
Police arrested James Evans immediately following his admission on Aug. 16. They said other children were removed from the Evans’ home as well.
The teen’s step-grandfather, Robert Evans, also allegedly knew about the abusive situation.
“If you’re a parent or guardian and you’re aware that a child in your custody is being abused, and you do nothing, you could easily be subjected to criminal liability and be charged for that,” explained Fairfield Police Sgt. Brandon McCroskey. “I’ve had a couple cases myself where that’s occurred, this being one of them.”
The three adults are facing 14 total criminal charges, including abduction and child endangering.
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