SALEM, W.Va. — This week’s arrest of an employee at a Christian boarding school in Harrison County that’s affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church has prompted a larger investigation into how children have been treated at Miracle Meadows School.
“We’ve got a lot of people working on this and it is, what we consider to be, one of the most serious cases we’ve ever handled in Harrison County,” Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Shaffer said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“When everything comes out, I think it’s going to shock the conscience.”
On Thursday, deputies with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department along with State Police troopers and officers with the Bridgeport Police Department arrested Timothy Aaron Arrington, 36, of Salem, on a charge of child abuse by a custodian. He’s accused of choking a school resident to the “point of unconsciousness” at some point in June.
Shaffer said the allegations came to light when medical treatment was sought for the child.
The criminal complaint against Arrington alleged that child woke up handcuffed in his room and Arrington may have handcuffed other students at other times.
Following his arrest, state and local officials moved to shut down Miracle Meadows. Nineteen kids between the ages of 10 and 17 were removed from the school on Thursday and placed into facilities approved by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
Shaffer said forensic examiners have interviewed the kids about operations at Miracle Meadows and DHHR officials were notifying their family members. “These kids are from all around the country — from the state of Washington, Maryland, Maine, all over the place.”
He said many of the employees are also not from West Virginia. “I do anticipate further criminal charges in the future but, logistically, it’s going to be a very long, detailed plenary investigation for the simple fact that most of the people working at this facility are from out of the country,” Shaffer said.
Law enforcement officers from a list of agencies, including the Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, spent Thursday night searching the privately-funded school.
No other charges had been filed as of early Friday afternoon.
According to its website, Miracle Meadows is for at-risk boys and girls who are “experiencing defiance, dishonesty, school failure, trouble with the law, spiritual disinterest, poor social skills, adoption issues and other behavior that is harmful to them and to other others.”