By GARY POPP
A 27-year-old New Albany woman has been charged after admitting to having sexual relations with a 14-year-old Jeffersonville High School student.
Megan Ralston, of 405 Parkside Drive, who was 26 years old at the time of the alleged crimes, has been charged in Clark County Circuit Court No. 4 with two counts sexual misconduct with a minor and two counts sexual misconduct, all class B felonies.
According to the probable-cause affidavit prepared by Jeffersonville police, Ralston was a caretaker at Child Place Inc., located at 2420 E. 10th St. in Jeffersonville, and the alleged victim is a boy who resides at the facility. Child Place is a nonprofit agency that provides residential and foster care services for abandoned, abused and neglected children and adolescents.
The sexual activity between Ralston and the juvenile is believed to have taken place between August and October 2012. Ralston no longer works at Childplace.
Following an investigation by the Jeffersonville Police Department, Ralston appeared in court Wednesday, at which time Judge Vicki Carmichael set a $25,000 court-cash bond. Following the hearing, Ralston was booked into the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex and released two hours later after a $2,500 bond was posted.
The investigation into the allegations began soon after a JPD school resource officer at JHS was alerted in early November by Assistant Principal Jeff Griffith that a student had been “flashing a large sum of money at school and was asking a lot of questions about Indiana laws regarding sex with a minor,” according to the affidavit.
The student was called to Griffith’s office and questioned by the school resource officer about the allegation. During the interview, police reported the student produced $80, which he said was given to him by Ralston.
“[The student] said he has been involved in a sexual relationship with Ralston since approximately Aug. 15, 2012,” according to the affidavit.
The student continued that Ralston had given him a card containing $20 on his birthday in July and sometime after that she began talking to him about her adult relationships.
“He said sometime after Aug. 15, 2012, she began coming to his bedroom and initiated and performed oral sex with him,” according to the affidavit. “[The student] said this occurred several times over a period of two months.”
The child claimed Ralston initiated and had sexual intercourse with him in a Childplace transport van near McDonald’s restaurant on Charlestown Road in New Albany on Oct. 11. He also told police that Ralston had written him a letter in September expressing feelings that she held for him. The child reported that he had since torn up the letter, but had not thrown it away.
“[The student] said the ongoing relationship made him feel increasingly uncomfortable and he wished to discontinue the sexual activity,” according to the affidavit.
The child reported that he told Ralston that he was going to confess their relationship and that it was only fair she heard that from him, police reported.
“He said Ralston asked [him] to return the letter and offered him $120 in cash for the letter,” according to the affidavit. “[The student] said he agreed and traded the pieces of the torn letter for six $20 bills.”
A forensic interview was conducted with the child Nov. 13 at Family and Children Center in New Albany.
During the interview, the child gave similar accounts of his sexual history with Ralston that he had previously provided to police. His account with the forensic interviewer included nearly 15 incidents of oral sex at Childplace. He again reported other sexual activity in the Childplace van after he and Ralston had dropped off another resident of Childplace to work at McDonald’s.
During an interview with JPD Detective Isaac Parker on Nov. 7 at the police department, Ralston stated that she had been an employee of Childplace for five months and that she first met the child when she was placed as a staff member in his cottage.
“[Ralston] recently heard rumors around Childplace that a juvenile, [the student], had manipulated her into kissing and ‘doing things’ with her,” according to the affidavit. “When asked if there was any truth to those rumors, Ralston stated, ‘some.’”
While speaking with Parker, Ralston admitted that her and the student’s relationship had changed during the preceding June as he had directed flattering comments at her. According to the affidavit, Ralston also admitted to approximately 10 occurrences of physical contact with the student, which included about two acts of oral sex on the child in the upstairs bathroom of the juvenile’s cottage at Childplace.
“[Ralston] also admitted to having unprotected sexual intercourse with [the child] in a red van, which belonged to Childplace, in the parking lot of McDonald’s ...,” according to the affidavit.
Ralston admitted that she had written the child a letter expressing her feelings, and to giving him $120, but the money was provided because he wanted to buy something for his girlfriend, a person other than Ralston. During the interview, Ralston said that she had not had sexual contact with the child for three to four weeks.
“Ralston advised she wished this incident would not have occurred because she wanted to help kids,” according to the affidavit. “She also advised that she knew he was 14 years old, thought he was attractive and had romantic feelings for him.”
A meeting was set for November 20 with Ralston, her attorney Bart Betteau, his assistant, Parker and Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Linda Lamping at JPD. During the interview, Ralston outlined the evolution of her relationship with the juvenile. She stated, according the affidavit, that the child had immediately show her attention at Childplace and that he spoke openly with her and would later tell her that he felt she was the only person who cared about him. She said that she felt the child initially had a “crush” on her, but as time went on he later became infatuated with her.
“Ralston advised [the child] forced her to perform oral sex on him,” according to the affidavit.
She said during their first oral-sex encounter, the child had motioned for her to go to an upstairs bathroom in his Childplace cottage.
“ ... Ralston did not want to go; however, she did because she wanted to help him,” according to the affidavit.
Ralston reported that she attempted to stop the act by pulling away and stating, “I don’t want to do this,” but wasn’t unable to stop the act, according to the affidavit.
She said a similar encounter occurred the second time the two engaged in sexual activity.
Ralston was then asked about the sexual intercourse with the child in New Albany. She stated after leaving McDonald’s, she drove the Childplace van to an area near Indiana University Southeast because the child wanted to talk. After reaching the location, Ralston and the child got into the back seat of the van. Parker noted in the affidavit, that Ralston could not explain why she went to the rear of the vehicle of her own will. She said while in the van, the child had removed his pants and she had told hip to stop multiple times, and he attempted to comfort her by saying “he loved her and it was OK.”
Ralston claimed that the child tried to hold her down during the intercourse.
“[The] child allegedly told Ralston that he felt as though he raped her,” according to the affidavit, and that the experience cause her physical pain.
Ralston said during the interview that she had not has sexual intercourse before her experience with the juvenile. Parker reported that at no time did Ralston report any of the incidents to her employer, seek medical treatment or tell anyone of the occurrences.
“She advised there was no evidence that could corroborate her story,” according to the affidavit. “Ralston also retracted her statement of being attracted to [the child] and had romantic feelings toward [him].”
Ralston is scheduled to return to court July 22.
If found guilty of the four felony charges, she could be sentenced to 80 years imprisonment in the Indiana Department of Correction.
On Wednesday, Childplace released a statement published at WDRB.com. It reads: “Childplace has required and continues to require the highest level of professionalism from its staff. The staff member allegedly involved is no longer employed by Childplace.”