Molested Child Unimportant To Tampa DV Shelter Pt 3

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Taneka Rodman of Tampa lived at the Spring of Tampa Bay with her five children

Woman says Tampa Domestic Violence shelter put secrecy before safety when her child was molested

This is the story of a Good, Loving Mother, Taneka Rodman, and her five Children.  In a time of a Mother’s worst nightmare, this dear Lady faced the unending nightmare alone.

TAMPA, FL  –  The evening of Dec. 1, 2014, Rodman didn’t think much about what kind of history Wimbley might have.  She just wanted her thrown in jail.

But it wasn’t that simple.

Two Tampa police officers arrived at the Spring.  The child told them Wimbley molested her.  But Wimbley denied knowing the girl and said she arrived at the shelter the previous day.

The officers had paperwork, including the babysitting agreement, refuting both of those claims.  When pressed by police, Wimbley backtracked.

“Wimbley could not give a valid reason,” Officer Jason Brown wrote, “only to say that she never said she didn’t know them.”

Potier, the shelter worker, told police that two of Wimbley’s roommates saw her take the girl into the locked bathroom where they remained for “a long time.”  Officers asked for these women’s names, but Potier refused.

“I was advised by Potier that she would give them our number to contact us,” Brown wrote.

With nothing else to go on, the officers decided they couldn’t make an arrest.  The Spring kicked Wimbley out.

Unsatisfied, Rodman showed up at the police district headquarters that night, demanding answers.

“I spent almost 45 minutes with her,” Sgt. Gary Neal wrote in a report.  “She was emotional at times, tearing up despite all assurances that the abuse investigation was being thoroughly investigated.”

Rodman cried herself to sleep that night.

The next day, she called 911, hoping a different officer would show up at the Spring.

But it was the same sergeant, Neal.

Neal wrote that Rodman “lost control, flailing her arm and screaming, this is the devil, the devil is present.”

Neal told her to calm down and called for backup.  Potier, the shelter advocate, told him she felt threatened earlier when Rodman had pounded on her door.  The officer decided to take Rodman into custody under the Baker Act.

As they loaded her into the patrol car, for transport to a local psychiatric ward, Rodman watched her disabled 14-year-old son cry out, “I want my momma.”

At Gracepoint, a mental health facility, a counselor assessed her within two hours of her arrival, according to her medical record.

Rodman seemed down and anxious, but acted appropriately.

A doctor concluded she didn’t need to be there.

• • •

The way the shelter handled this case isn’t unusual.

Staff at domestic violence shelters are trained to protect the identities of everyone inside.

Under Florida law, there are supposed to be exceptions to the secrecy.  Shelter officials must turn over names in a medical emergency or if police have an arrest or search warrant.

The secrecy law also allows shelters to give police information that is directly related to a crime that happened inside.

And yet, Tampa police reports from the past five years show that Spring officials refused to provide information in more than a dozen cases involving crime at the shelter.

In one case, a woman suspected her roommate had poured bleach all over her clothes after making threats.  She didn’t know the woman’s last name.  The shelter wouldn’t give it to police.

The same happened when a woman alleged a new roommate fondled her against her will.

The Spring withheld identities or access in 11 theft cases, including one in which a woman had money stolen from her locker.  In that instance, Officer William Fair asked to see the locker.

“The staff member advised me that I could not come into the secure portion of the building due to the privacy of the residents staying there,” he wrote.

Officer Matthew Drumsta heard the same in February 2015, when he wrote: “The staff member stated that offenses like this happen all the time and per policy, they tell the victims to make a report.”

In one case, a detective following up on a report of a stolen watch called the only phone number he had for a victim, which belonged to the shelter.

“(They) refused to cooperate with me,” wrote Detective Gary Filippone.  “They would not let me speak to anyone.  I asked if I could respond with my proper credentials, and she stated they would not . . . cooperate with the investigation.”

Pressed for time and facing resistance to getting basic information, officers sometimes drop investigations.

Murphy said that in the three years she has led the Spring, her staff has followed the law and not impeded any investigation.  “If a resident reports a crime is occurring or has occurred at the shelter, we call law enforcement to investigate,” she said.

After the Times began asking questions about how the Spring was handling criminal investigations, Tampa police said they approached shelter officials about the issue.

Spring officials agreed to provide pertinent information when police investigate crimes on shelter property, including the names of suspects and witnesses, a police spokeswoman said.

Molested Child Unimportant To Tampa DV Shelter Pt 2

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Akilah Wimbley, 33,
Child Predator

Woman says Tampa Domestic Violence shelter put secrecy before safety when her child was molested

This is the story of a Good, Loving Mother, Taneka Rodman, and her five Children.  In a time of a Mother’s worst nightmare, this dear Lady faced the unending nightmare alone.

TAMPA, FL  –   Just before Thanksgiving, after three weeks at the Spring, Rodman noticed a new resident.  She seemed lonely.

The woman lingered near the family’s room and seemed to follow them at dinner time.  Rodman had a soft-spot for loners; her 5-year-old had trouble with bullies.  She invited the woman to sit with them.  Akilah Wimbley, 33, seemed nice enough.

When Wimbley began to take an interest in the girl, giving her small gifts and offering to buy her shoes, the mother was only relieved. Someone was being nice to her daughter.

Rodman trusted Wimbley to watch her kids one day when she needed to go to the store.  The Spring requires parents to sign a “babysitting agreement” to leave them with another resident.  The women signed one of those forms.

What no one knew: Wimbley was a felon with a violent past.

Ten years ago, she threatened to kill her ex-boyfriend’s family and burn down his house.  Police found her on his block with a knife.  She pleaded guilty to aggravated stalking.

The next year, she beat her mother and went to jail, where she hurt a couple of deputies as they tried to uncuff her.  Authorities transferred her to a mental health center, where her doctor said she had “severe delusional fantasies.”

In 2009, she called 911 during a dispute with her brother, who told Wimbley not to beat her 4-year-old son with a shoe.  She told deputies he held a knife to the boy’s throat, an allegation the boy denied.

“She told me to tell you that my uncle had a knife,” the boy told deputies when they arrived.  “But he didn’t.”

The next year, deputies accused Wimbley of child abuse after they found multiple injuries on her young daughter, including a 3-inch open wound on her thigh.  Police said she burned the girl with scalding water as punishment for messing her diaper.

Wimbley pleaded guilty to child neglect and was still on probation when she entered the Spring.

Rodman didn’t know any of that on Dec. 1, 2014.

She was in bed that day feeling sick and thought her 5-year-old was in the computer room with her brothers.  One of the boys came to rouse her, and they couldn’t find the girl.

She wasn’t in the lobby. She wasn’t on the playground.  The mother tried not to panic as she and a shelter worker, Susan Potier, searched.  Potier wound up in Wimbley’s room in the wing for women without children.

“Taneka, come!”  Potier called.

From the hall, Rodman saw Wimbley poke her head out of the room: “We’re not doing anything.”

In a later statement to police, Potier told officers that Wimbley said the following:

Her mother gave me the child to have.  She put it in writing.  She is mine now.

But when police spoke to Wimbley two hours later, she said she wasn’t with the girl.

She didn’t even know her.

⋅⋅⋅

The Spring takes every precaution to guard against dangers outside its walls.  But like many domestic violence shelters across the country, it does not perform background checks on the victims who come seeking shelter.

Florida’s 42 accredited domestic violence shelters are barred from doing so by the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which certifies and distributes public funds to each facility.

“To require such screening could deter survivors of domestic violence from seeking shelter when they are in danger and need to leave the abuser to protect themselves and their children,” said coalition spokeswoman Leisa Wiseman.  “Survivors need to be encouraged to seek shelter services, and should not face additional barriers when fleeing the abuse.”

That’s different from some homeless shelters that take in children. Tampa’s Metropolitan Ministries checks clients’ backgrounds.  The Salvation Army and the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida run them through a sex offender database.

“A very big concern here is making sure kids are safe,” said Muffet Robinson, spokeswoman for the Orlando homeless coalition.

When Nikki Daniels ran the Family Justice Center in Tampa — which helped connect domestic violence victims and others to services — officials there conducted background checks on people who came into the building.  A criminal history alone didn’t exclude someone from getting help, and Daniels said it didn’t deter victims from seeking it.

“It made them feel safer,” Daniels said.

Police reports show a handful of instances in which women at the Spring have fought over shared bathrooms or missing belongings or what was on the communal TV.  In one case in 2014, a woman on felony probation was accused of hitting a 9-year-old girl in the face.

The Spring’s chief executive officer Mindy Murphy would not sit down with the Times for an interview nor would she allow reporters to visit the shelter.  She answered questions in a brief email that did not address how the shelter handled the molestation allegations or whether the Spring made any policy changes after the incident.  She also refused to answer general questions about the shelter’s safety protocols.

“While victims of domestic violence live in our shelter, they are responsible for the supervision of their children,” she wrote.