Arrests spark conversations about child abuse and sex crimes

Crime

WEBSTER COUNTY, Mo. – As many as eight men are facing charges involving crimes against children in Webster County.  

authorities say many of the arrests are connected to crimes that took place in or around Seymour, with others being charged in Marshfield and Rogersville. 

The Sheriff’s Office announced the suspects in early November as: 

  • Joey Rippee – two counts of first-degree statutory rape with a person younger than 14 and two counts of statutory sodomy 
  • Collyn Rippee – Three counts of statutory sodomy 
  • Jeremy Russell – Four counts of first-degree statutory rape 
  • Bobby Smith – One count of statutory sodomy 
  • Alan Gilliam – Five counts of second-degree statutory rape 
  • Chance Raubs – Two counts of abuse or neglect of a child, no sexual contact 
  • Joseph Hardy – Three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and one count of second-degree statutory rape 

Another man mentioned in this investigation, Terry Rippee, the father of Joey and Collyn, is in CaseNet charged with one count of sexual misconduct involving a child under 15 and eight counts of statutory sodomy.  

The Rippee’s, as well as Jeremy Russell and Alan Gilliam, are accused of sexually abusing the victim on multiple occasions from when she was about 12 years old until she was 17.  

Court documents say the victim is now 18-years-old. She told the investigator she only chose to come forward recently because she didn’t want others to suffer the same abuse.

The victim told deputies she went to the Webster County Sheriff’s Office on October 22nd, 2021 after she had begun remembering many details after attending therapy.  

OzarksFirst spoke with the Child Advocacy Center in Springfield this week about how professionals are trained to handle these types of cases.  

Executive Director Katiina Dull says advocates at the center aren’t able to speak about specific cases, but explains why it may take several years for a child to come forward.  

“So disclosing abuse regardless of whether it’s physical or sexual is a complicated process and it’s a different process for every victim. There is fear, there is shame, there is embarrassment, there are safety issues. The only baseline you have is someone isn’t going to be able to talk about their abuse until they feel safe to do so, so how can we as a community create an environment that allows victims to feel safe to be able to disclose.” 

Another suspect, 62-year-old Bobby Smith was charged in late October under similar circumstances. Court documents say Smith was arrested after a relative of his came forward in March to report Smith had touched her inappropriately.  

The victim reported she and her mother had been staying with Smith at his home in 2017.  

Dull says 90% of all child abuse is done by someone the child knows or trusts. She asks parents to begin having conversations with their children early about what situations are appropriate.  

“The important piece here to take away is that every person has a right to their body autonomy,” Dull says. “We often talk to our kids about stranger danger, but if 90% of the abuse isn’t the stranger at the park, we need to do a better job in helping our kids identify safe adults so that they can seek help when issues start to arise or when situations with other adults make them feel uncomfortable.”

Joseph Hardy, 26. is also facing four different charges after a 16-year-old accused him of touching her inappropriately in the middle of the night.  

Another man, 22-year-old Chance Raubs, has also been charged with 2 counts of child abuse. 

According to the PC statement, Raubs told the mother of the child that spanking was no longer working, and he had resorted to using a plastic hanger, a garden hose, and cold water to discipline and punish a 3-year-old boy.  

Joseph Hardy, Alan Gilliam and Bobby Smith will all be in court on Tuesday, November 9th, for separate hearings on their cases.  

The sheriff’s office says more arrests are possible, as well as more charges for the suspects that are already in custody.  

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