New Arrest; New In East Texas Child Sex Ring - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

3/28/2008-Wood Co

New Arrest; New In East Texas Child Sex Ring

It's set off an empassioned reaction from Mineola's Former Police Chief. While children were being drugged and forced into disturbing sexual acts, what did his department do to stop it? His rebuttal and other new developments in the Mineola sex ring investigation.

As we've mentioned, the first person tried in the case, Jamie Pittman, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison for his involvement in the ring. Five co-defendents are still awaiting trial.

Smith County Prosecutors say co-defendant Shauntel Mayo, could have a trial date as soon as May.

KLTV 7 learned another person has been arrested, this time, in Washington State. Rebecca Lynn Pittman is awaiting extradition to Smith County on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child. The Texas Rangers handled the 2 year investigation into the sex ring, but some folks in Mineola are wondering what, if anything, Mineola Police did to put a stop to this.

A woman who cared for some of the children tells KLTV 7 she filed a report with them almost 3 years ago. A report that still eludes not just us, but also the person who would have prosecuted the case.

The report was filed in June of 2005, detailing just some of the suffering the children went through inside the club.  Margaret Cantrell, who had temporary custody of three of the children, says she told Mineola Police she was looking at buying the building when the children told her about the drugs, stripping, and abuses that went on there. That drove her to take action the very same day.

"I went immediately to the police and told the chief and a detective my statement," said Cantrell, Did the children give a statement? was asked "No" said Cantrell.

She says the children remembered everything about the club, like the way the rooms were painted, the old stage were they were forced to dance, even details as small as a basketball left outside under the tree, a ball that was still there months later.

Margaret says it was not until a custody hearing, months after she went to the Police, that a Smith County prosecutor finally believed her.

 "When stories were told, when I brought it to the attention it wasn't believed. Tiffany Winkel I guess saw something in my heart and she believed me and got right on it. She got the Texas Rangers and they interviewed the children," said Cantrell.

Winkel then contacted Texas Ranger Phillip Kemp, who headed the investigation for two years.

"If it wasn't for them none of this would have been stopped and there would not have been justice for any children involved," said Cantrell.

We tried to get Mineola Police's side of the story, but they told us this is an open investigation and refused to comment, sending us to the Wood County District Attorney.

"I have initiated an investigated that involved Texas Rangers and Mineola Police Department as to the allegations that were revealed in open court in Smith County," said Wood County District Attorney Jim Wheeler.

Wheeler said he doesn't know why he doesn't have a single case linked to this sex club. He says the entire investigation has been reopened this week, and if he finds anything else on the current defendants or anybody else, he says indictments and criminal charges could follow.

Now, as soon Margaret Cantrell's allegations first aired on KLTV 7, former Mineola Police Chief Jason Shanks contacted us who now works in Dallas. He said that they had heard lots of rumors and he said the moment they got information children were involved they did investigate. He said quote "We worked with the FBI for two weeks to run down leads. We searched homes in Smith County to look for anything we could find....videos, etc. We found nothing. We even went through the old club to try and find evidence that children were involved, again they said they found nothing."

Danielle Capper, Reporting. dcapper@kltv.com

 

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