(CNSNews.com) -- The Texas Center for Defense of Life (TCDL) filed a lawsuit Tuesday charging a former state judge with negligence after he sent a then-pregnant teenage girl back to a house where she resided with her step-grandmother and the grandmother’s boyfriend, who was a registered sex offender who later tied the teenager to a bed, raped her, and murdered the grandmother in front of her.
The TCDL also filed suit against three public school officials who have been indicted for failure to report child abuse for the way they dealt with the same girl, who reportedly was age 15 at the time.
Several months before the girl was raped, she had undergone an abortion, allegedly under pressure from her grandmother and the boyfriend.
Terry Flenniken, the state district court judge who is a defendant in the lawsuit, retired from the bench in December 2012. He told CNSNews.com by telephone Tuesday that he had not yet read the lawsuit and could not comment on the case.
“There is no excuse for Judge Flenniken’s poor decision,” TCDL President Gregory Terra, who is an attorney, said in a press release. “He knew exactly what the minor was dealing with in her home situation and that she lived with Edward Clinton Lee, a registered sex offender, and yet still sent her back to live with him and her guardian instead of granting the petition to release her to her biological mother.”
The girl--not named because she is a minor but identified as “SRL” in court documents--had been living with her step-grandmother, Jean Slovacek, at a house in Caldwell, Texas, along with Slovack’s boyfriend, Edward Clinton Lee. (See Lawsuit 27,521.pdf)
Lee, 54, was a registered sex offender; he had been convicted in 1993 of indecent exposure with a 13-year-old girl. SRL was afraid of Lee as early as 2011, according to the lawsuit filed in Burleson County District Court. (See Edward Clinton Lee.pdf)
The lawsuit explains that SRL was instructed in the fall of 2011 to write an essay for a school class about the best thing or worst thing that had ever happened to her. SRL, the lawsuit alleges, asked the Caldwell Middle School counselor and teacher, Bliss Bednar, if she could write about something that was currently happening in her life if she changed the names. Bednar allegedly said yes, provided the names were changed.
SRL then “wrote about her trials from the sexual advances of Defendant Lee, her fears of his advances, which were outrageous in nature,” reads the lawsuit. (Lawsuit 27,521.pdf)
In the actual essay, SRL wrote about how a man named “Phillip,” who lived at “Sandra’s” house, was making sexual advances towards “Sandra” and how she had to block her door with her dresser. As the disturbing story continues, it reads, “He picked her up and put her on the bed. To her surprise, Phillip had handcuffs. Attaching her to the bed, she felt completely helpless and at his mercy. With one swift motion, her pajamas and panties were gone. … ‘Is this really why I was put here … to get raped?’ Sandra thought to herself. This was it; she gave up.” (See A Change of Destiny.pdf)
Despite the essay, “[t]he school officials failed to report on any of the sexual advances and sexual offenses of Lee,” reads the lawsuit.
The teacher, Bednar, did consult with Caldwell High School Principal Vance Skidmore and High School Principal Bradley Vestal about the essay, according to the suit. But they in turn contacted SRL’s legal guardian, Slovacek, and Edward Lee.
Lee and Slovacek then confronted the girl and admonished her for “lying in her paper to get Eddie in trouble,” said Greg Terra at the Texas Center for the Defense of Life (TCDL). “SRL was immediately driven to the school and forced to apologize to Bednar, Skidmore, and Vestal for ‘lying’ in her paper.”
The lawsuit states, “At no point did Bednar, Skidmore, or Vestal act, based on their special relationship with SRL [as her teacher and principals], to intervene and protect SRL. They had a duty to act based on their special relationship with SRL.”
They “had no discretion to report Lee’s sexual advances as identified through SRL,” reads the lawsuit, and thus “were negligent in their actions” toward the girl.
The lawsuit details some of Lee’s actions towards SRL, such as “peering in on her through the door keyhole when she was changing or in the bathroom”; “Making her perform strip dances”; and “walking in on her when she was in the bathroom unclothed and deceitfully attempting to excuse it as an accident.” (See Lawsuit 27,521.pdf)
Not long after the essay incident, in early 2012, the teenage girl told Slovacek and Lee that she was pregnant by her boyfriend. Slovacek and Lee allegedly pressured the girl to undergo an abortion, against her will, says Terra in a letter released by the TCDL.
The girl subsequently contacted her biological mother, Angela Belcher, in Georgia and told her what was going on. Belcher and her husband then contacted the TCDL, in Georgetown, Texas. The group, which provides pro-bono legal representation and support to pro-life groups and individuals throughout Texas, requested a restraining order to keep Lee away from the girl. The restraining order also cited the girl’s pregnancy and her rights to be protected from a coerced abortion against her will.
In a hearing on February 14, 2012, about the restraining order and TCDL’s further motion to have custody of the girl assigned to Angela Belcher, Burleson County Judge Terry Flenniken spoke privately with the girl in his chambers.
In the TCDL’s letter, Greg Terra states, “Shortly after the hearing began, Judge Flenniken took S.R.L back into his office/chambers to have a private conversation with her which lasted 20-30 minutes. The substance of that conversation is detailed in the attached ‘Affidavit of S.L.,’ (dated Mar. 28, 2013) and included allegations of psychological and emotional abuse of a sexual nature by Edward Clinton Lee, as well as statements by S.R.L. explaining that she was afraid for her safety and wanted to keep her baby and not have an abortion.”
In the “Affidavit of S.L,” the girl says, “Then the judge asked, ‘Do you have anything to tell me about Eddie?’ I told him a brief history of how my Papa [Robert Storm] and Meme [Jean Slovacek-Storm] got a divorce and that Eddie had always done subtle hints and messed with me. I told him that Eddie offered me twenty (20) dollars to strip down to my underwear on hunting trip. I told him my Meme wouldn’t listen when I told her, and that my Meme told me I was making it up. I also told the judge that I rearranged my room and put the dresser in front of the door to keep Eddie out of my room. …
"I also told the judge that I didn’t change into pajamas because I didn’t want Eddie to see me changing. The judge asked me, ‘Are you sure?’ I told him that I would catch Eddie on multiple occasions coming into the bathroom while I was taking a shower. The door didn’t lock. Eddie would act like it was an accident. I told him [the judge] that I would put toilet paper into the keyhole of the bathroom door so that Eddie couldn’t peek into there because I had seen him peeking. The judge asked me, ‘Are you sure this is really happening?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ … I told the judge very clearly, ‘I feel safer living with my mom and I think it’s best for me. I want to keep my baby.” (See Affidavit of S R L .pdf)
At the end of the affidavit, SRL states, “The entire time the judge and everyone of the persons against my mom [Belcher] in the lawsuit, my Papa, my Meme, Eddie, and the judge, made me feel like I was being guilt-tripped into staying in Caldwell and not going with my mom. The judge, in my opinion, did not act upon the things I said. Less than six months after this trial, Eddie sexually assaulted me.”
At that Feb. 14 hearing, Angela Belcher testified and the TCDL presented evidence that the girl was living in a home with a registered sex offender and potentially was in danger of sexual abuse. In a document included in the lawsuit, offenses committed by Edward Clinton Lee are listed. It reads, “Indecency w/a Child Exposes,” and says victim sex female, victim age 13, Time 10Y, Disposition Date 9/30/1993, and Status Parole. (See Lawsuit 27,521.pdf)
According to the TCDL, Judge Flenniken said, “I find no evidence” that the girl was being coerced to have an abortion against her will, and the judge also decided it was not in the girl’s best interest to be removed from the home.
The girl was returned to Slovacek and Lee. The girl was then taken to Austin, Texas and underwent an abortion.
Four months later, early in the morning on June 29, 2012, Lee tied the girl to her bed and raped her. Slovacek woke up, went into the room and confronted Lee. He then shot and killed Slovacek with a handgun in the hallway, and returned to the bedroom to rape the girl again.
After Lee left the room, SRL got loose from the ropes, escaped out a window, and ran down the street naked to a local school where she was discovered by a police officer. Edward Lee was subsequently caught at the home and arrested.
In April, 2013, Lee pleaded guilty to the murder of Slovacek and to raping and kidnapping the girl. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
After the crimes in June 2012, the TCDL met with the girl and her mother and learned about the school essay and what Judge Flenniken apparently had discussed with the girl in his office.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the TCDL says that after Judge Flenniken spoke with SRL in his office, he returned to the courtroom with the girl “without making any report to the police about the reported sexual offenses and propositions.”
The lawsuit further states, “Flenniken knew Lee was a registered sex offender. Flenniken had no discretion, based on his special relationship with SRL not to intervene and protect SRL. By his special relationship, he had to intervene. … Flenniken was negligent in his actions towards SRL.”
The TCDL cites “common law negligence against Defendants Flenniken, Bednar, Skidmore, and Vestal,” stating that, once aware of the allegations of sexual abuse by Lee, they owed the victim “a common law duty” to “exercise reasonable care to avoid the forseeable risk of injury” to her.
The judge and the school officials also had a “duty of ordinary care” not to place the girl “in harm’s way of foreseeable criminal activity,” and, because of their positions of authority – school and the court – had a “special relationship” under the law with SRL. Based on that relationship, nonetheless, they failed to act or intervene to protect the girl, states the lawsuit.
The girl “suffered significant damages” from the “negligence” of the judge and the school officials, reads the TCDL lawsuit, and she deserves to be compensated for those damages, as well as for costs and attorney’s fees.
Separate from the lawsuit, the three school officials – Bednar, Skidmore, and Vestal -- were indicted in August by a grand jury for failing to report the essay to authorities, which is a misdemeanor offense. (See Lawsuit 27,521.pdf)
A statement from Caldwell ISD Superintendent Dr. Janet Cummings in August reads: “Caldwell ISD has been informed that three employees have been issued an indictment by the Burleson County Grand Jury for the offense of failure to report child abuse. The District has placed the employees on administrative leave at this time. The District has cooperated fully with the District Attorney’s office and will take appropriate employment actions. The serious nature of the allegations must thoroughly be investigated and the educators given an opportunity to defend their actions. Caldwell ISD Superintendent and the CISD Board of Trustees want to assure our educational community that all appropriate action will be taken to continue to earn the trust of our parents and community. Due to the serious nature of these developments, the District will not be making further comments at this time.”
Attempts by CNSNews.com to reach Bednar, Skidmore, and Vestal by telephone were not successful before this story was posted.