Teen charged as adult in sex crimes against boys ages 7, 8 - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Teen charged as adult in sex crimes against boys ages 7, 8

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WRCB News Director Note: Channel 3 Eyewitness News does not typically identify juvenile suspects. We evaluate each story on its own facts. After a discussion among managers and other journalists in our newsroom, we opted to name the suspect in this case because the State of Georgia has charged him as an adult and because of the nature of the alleged crimes. Prosecutors also released the suspect's mug shot based on the circumstances of this case. As we attempt to be transparent with our viewers on such ethical decisions, we recognize that opinions may vary on our decision. As always, we welcome your feedback.

WALKER COUNTY, GA. (WRCB) -- Marie Elsberry has felt safe since she and her daughters moved into public housing near downtown LaFayette two months ago.

"Nobody's bothered me," she says. "Nobody's even dropped by for a cup of sugar."

Before meeting our Channel 3 crew, she hadn't known of 16-year-old Scott Kenneth Winebrinner.

Or what police believe ended with his arrest back in May.

"It makes me feel sick, to hear that someone could do that to a child," Elsberry says, tearfully. "My child, any child."

A Walker County Grand Jury has indicted Winebrinner as an adult, for five counts of aggravated sodomy, five counts of aggravated molestation, and four counts of molestation.

His alleged victims; two boys, ages 7 and 8.

"There's a common playground, that all the units use," LaFayette Police Capt. Stacey Meeks says. "A lot of parents would let their kids play unsupervised. He (Winebrinner) basically just sat out and picked some of the smaller kids at the playground."

The indictment alleges the sexual attacks began in June 2011.

"One of the victims came forward and told his teacher that somebody was touching him," Capt. Meeks says. "That revelation led to the other victim."

Winebrinner would have been 15 when the crimes are alleged to have occurred. Under Georgia law, the age of the victims, coupled with the specifics of the allegations, left police and prosecutors no choice but to charge him as an adult, Capt. Meeks says.

"He admitted to it when we brought him in for questioning," Capt. Meeks continues. "His mother heard, for the first time, some very difficult things about her son."

Winebrinner and his mother also claimed that he, too, had been a victim of molestation.

"We learned that his father has been imprisoned for molesting him and his sister," Capt. Meeks says.

"It's not uncommon for perpetrators to have been victims themselves," says Farlie Chastain, a clinical social worker who counsels child victims of sexual abuse at Parkridge Valley Mental Health.

"Some victims have become predators, grooming their victims as they were groomed," Chastain says.

"But others are acting on adult-type feelings that they themselves are too immature to handle. They don't have a firm sense of right versus wrong. They haven't been told 'no'. They're repeating the behavior that they've experienced and been shown."

Lacking knowledge of Winebrinner's circumstances or the specific allegations, it would be impossible to know or to speculate into which category he might fall, Chastain says. Even with such information, medical ethics would preclude him from offering comment.

"I can't say, legally, whether his being a prior victim of abuse might lessen the severity of the punishment he might receive or that he might deserve," Chastain says.

"I can tell you that had this been in Tennessee, the Department of Children's Services would have been involved first. Georgia gives you much less flexibility in how you treat such cases."

Under Georgia law, a guilty plea or conviction for molestation allows the judge to offer probation, counseling and treatment to first-time offenders.

But convictions for aggravated sodomy or aggravated molestation require no less than ten years in prison. The sentence can run as long as 30 years per count.

"I would like to see him (Winebrinner) take a deal to spare the victims testifying," Capt. Meeks says.

It's unclear what deal, if any, Winebrinner has been or may be offered. He's been in the custody of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice for the past five months, Capt. Meeks says.

Elsberry sees a wake-up call to parents.

"Instead of staying inside, or whatever they've been doing, go out and be with your children," she says. "Watch them, protect them. You only have them once."

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