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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Several parents who live on MacDill Air Force Base said a recent town hall style meeting with base leadership did not answer many of their questions prompted by a juvenile-on-juvenile sex crime investigation.
The meeting was held Monday after 8 on Your Side revealed last week that the Army Criminal Investigation Division is examining allegations involving a 13-year-old suspect and two girls under the age of 7.
One child told her parents the teenager touched her inappropriately in what was described as first degree sexual assault.
The other child, who is even younger, told her parents the suspect asked her to “do something weird,” but she said she refused. She said after she said no the suspect exposed himself to her. Both children said the incidents happened on the base playground in an area the children call “secret base.”
8 on Your Side was denied access to Monday’s hour-long meeting. Parents who attended said about 100 parents were involved in person and via zoom.
Base Commander Colonel Ben Jonsson answered some questions, according to one parent who said at other times he deferred to staff members.
Several parents said the introductions of the officials who answered questions took up too much time.
“It was pointless,” one mother said. “We didn’t need to know all of that. It was as if the meeting was for them to protect themselves from blame.”
The father of one of the alleged victims said some of the questions from remote participants were sanitized when they were read aloud at the meeting.
He was also one of several parents who expressed concern over a lack answers about base protocol for juvenile-on-juvenile sexual assaults.
“A lot of questions weren’t really answered,” he said. “They were either redirected or kind of walked around.”
MacDill Deputy Director of Public Affairs Terry Montrose said, “the commander confirmed there were allegations of sexual misconduct by a minor in the base housing area.”
“The commander confirmed that the minor in question had been removed from the base,” Montrose said. “The town hall provided information and resources while protecting the privacy of families and the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”
Another common complaint from parents involved questions about why the base did not alert parents about the investigation.
“No one came to say anything except my neighbor,” one mother said. “We knew nothing about it. There’s no comfort. There’s no respect. There’s no sympathy.”
Many parents wanted to know more about how these types of cases are investigated by the military, citing a 2018 Associated Press investigation that reported a review of dozens of cases from around the world showed 1 out of 7 was prosecuted.
A mother who attended the meeting has firsthand experience about the military’s poor track record.
She claims her son’s assault at another base was not investigated properly and she said that facility was not prepared to help her family through the trauma.
“It took a year before we were able to get any services,” she said. “It was a lot of call this person, that person. Check off base. [Military investigators] are not trained to investigate this type of crime.”
She said parents who wanted notification about the investigation may not realize the privacy elements that are involved, especially with a case involving a juvenile who has not been charged.
“But there had to be a way they could’ve notified us without saying anything about the case,” she said. “Maybe just a basic message about asking your kids if anything happened. That would’ve been helpful.”
Montrose did not specifically address parents’ issues with the meeting in his statement but said “base leaders listened to residents’ concerns directly and let residents know how to report any suspected misconduct.”
“The safety and security of our military families will continue to be our top priority,” Montrose said.
After the meeting parents of both of MacDill’s alleged victims said they remain pessimistic about the investigation.
“This might be another case where nothing will get done as far as pressing charges,” one of the fathers said.
Another parent said the Army investigator told her the investigation would likely end with the suspect barred from the base. That happened last Thursday, the day of 8 on Your Side’s first report.
“So, that could be it,” she said.
MacDill parents frustrated about lack of details in meeting prompted by sex crime case
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