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.