There is no statute of limitations for the crime of aggravated rape.
Last week, more than two years after a 22-month-old boy was victimized in May of 2010, his mother was indicted by a grand jury and subsequently arrested on charges of obstruction of justice.
By early this week, Hope Thibodaux, 24, of Pearl River was in the Washington Parish Jail with a $50,000 bond.
The crime occurred in Washington Parish, said Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office Captain of Criminal Investigations Tommie Sorrell, who investigated the case that went before the grand jury on Nov. 29.
“I have never seen such disgust in the eyes of the men and women on a grand jury, nor have I ever witnessed such a quick indictment,” she said. “I know the actions of Hope Thibodaux obstructed this investigation and resulted in a child rapist going free.
“I was able to prove a solid case against her, and I will not stop until I establish a case against this child rapist. I have seen sickening things in my career, but I have never witnessed a mother take such drastic measures to ensure her own child was not protected from a predator.”
The jury “took merely minutes” to return the indictment, and Thibodaux was arrested, with the assistance of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, the following day, Sorrell said.
A conviction for tampering with evidence with the specific intent of distorting the results of a criminal investigation or proceeding where a death sentence may be imposed can lead to a sentence of 40 years at hard labor, she said.
The investigation began in May 2010 following a complaint from the victim’s grandparents, Calvin and Darnay Thibodaux, who live in St. Tammany Parish. Calvin is Hope Thibodaux’s father, and Darnay is her stepmother.
“(The victim) came home with a torn and bruised hiney,” Darnay said. “He was living with us with his mom. We called the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office.”
According to Sorrell, “Hope had quite a few stories” about what had happened.
“Her original version was nothing was wrong with her son other than a diaper rash,” she said. “She denied seeing any trauma, which six other people clearly indicate witnessing, on the child's rectum.”
Then the subterfuge reportedly began in earnest.
“Hope gave a false name of a subject named ‘Tommy’ who had been around the child,” Sorrell said. “She refused to tell who the child had been left with.”
The child’s mother, now pregnant with her third child, also “made up a story about a fictitious doctor's visit occurring just prior to the abuse, and remained home with the child for two days to prevent the grandparents from taking him to the doctor” after the event, she said.
“When the grandparents finally were able to bring the child to a pediatrician, sexual abuse was suspected, so they were referred to Children's Hospital,” Sorrell said. “Hope would not allow the physician at Children's Hospital to conduct a particular examination, which would have provided evidence of sexual abuse.
“Later, she admitted to me she thought her child had been sexually abused, and she made up the doctor's visit/diaper rash to ‘throw-off’ the investigators because she did not want to lose custody of her children. Disturbingly, it was even discovered that Hope returned the child the very next weekend to visit with the suspected perpetrator.”
Calvin and Darnay were determined to identify the person who had victimized their grandson.
“They went on a mission to investigate themselves for several days to try and determine who the child had been left with,” Sorrell said. “Hope initially refused to tell them who had been around the child, and then she gave them the false name.
“The incident occurred in May 2010. Within two weeks, it was investigated as sexual abuse by the Sun Police Department. At this time, a suspect was identified including a location of where the child had been with this perpetrator--Washington Parish. On May 31, 2010, the Washington Parish Sheriff's Office was called in to investigate. The case was ‘cold’ and the suspect was not interviewed until Oct. 5, 2010.”
Three different investigators, one from the Sun Police Department and two from the WPSO, handled the investigation between May 2010 and June 2012, but it remained open with no disposition other than “under investigation.”
Calvin and Darnay Thibodaux have long felt that they know the identity of the perpetrator. They said the child told them, but that, because of his age, they were told his testimony could not be trusted.
Now the boy is in forensic counseling, and his grandparents, who now have custody of him and a sibling, are “just waiting” for him to be ready for an interview with the advocates at Hope House in Covington.
“He talks about it, but he doesn’t want to talk about it,” Darnay said.
She said she believes the previous investigators did not do their jobs, and that she is happy and relieved about the recent progress.
“Before the (sheriff’s) election I asked each one of those who ran, ‘If you make it will you take up my cause and give justice to this baby?’” Darnay said.
When Randy Seal took office on July 1, 2012, one of his first assignments for Sorrell was for her to review and investigate the case.
Now Sorrell, like Calvin and Darnay, is determined to put the perpetrator behind bars.
“I will continue to search for answers for this family,” she said. “This type of crime does not only occur once. There is little doubt that there are more victims out there, or God forbid, that there will be another victim.”
Sorrell is now on the case that has consumed Calvin and Darnay Thibodaux for more than two years.
The young victim has nightmares and other issues and remains in counseling, but he is “a beautiful and healthy little boy with an infectious smile and a huge personality,” she said.
Sorrell continues to look for evidence that will enable her to go back to the grand jury for an indictment against the perpetrator.
The elder Thibodauxs are also not about to give up.
“We will not stop until he is in jail,” Darnay said.