Friday, February 18, 2000

Detective to explain case

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Two Butler County commissioners have invited a detective from California to explain at a public meeting here next Thursday how the county placed foster children years ago with a man who now faces 43 sex charges.

        Commissioner Mike Fox said San Diego County sheriff's Detective Victoria Reden has documents showing that Butler County Children Services glossed over sexual-abuse allegations against Stephen P. Billand, when they placed at least six boys with him from 1986 to 1988.

        Mr. Fox said he hopes the county can learn what went wrong in Children Services' handling of the case and how it can be prevented in the future.

        “Where was the breakdown in the system of background checks when Billand was accepted as a foster parent?” he said.

        Mr. Fox and Commissioner Chuck Furmon have approved paying about $1,500 in air fare and three days of lodging and meals.

        But Commissioner Courtney Combs said he opposes bringing the detective to Hamilton at the county's expense.

        “It's a waste of taxpayers' money to bring her here,” he said. “I see no merit in it.”

        Detective Reden can discuss the case with Butler officials privately without being flown in from California, Mr. Combs said.

        Children Services says it investigated Mr. Billand as thoroughly as possible at the time.

        After a yearlong investigation, Mr. Billand was arrested in May 1998 in California and charged with 11 counts of rape, eight counts of gross sexual imposition and 24 counts of pandering obscenity.

        San Diego County authorities discovered photos and videotapes during a drug raid of Mr. Billand's residence, officials said.

        He lived in Clermont County from 1984 to 1991. He has been held in the Clermont County Jail since June.

        The charges against Mr. Billand involve the molestation of at least 20 boys in Ohio, Kentucky and California. It's not known how many of the children from Butler County were molested.

        In a July 1987 Children Services report that Detective Reden obtained, Bob Bogan, who was then supervisor of the agency's foster placement unit, dismissed one Butler County boy's allegations of sexual abuse in the Billand home.

        A day after the 8-year-old boy made the allegations, “Mr. Bogan stated that he doesn't believe the sex abuse occurred,” a caseworker wrote in the report. “He indicated that (the boy) is a disturbed young man who wishes to please his mother.”

        Mr. Bogan, now client-relations manager for Children Services, said he cannot comment on that report.

        Mr. Fox said it's important for the public to know the details of the Billand case and the role Butler County played. Detective Reden's statements about the case will have greater impact in person, he said.

        “It's such an ugly, terrible case,” he said. “If there's anything we can learn that will prevent something like this from happening in the future, it will be well worth the money we spend bringing her here.”

        Since becoming a commissioner two years ago, Mr. Fox has criticized Children Services and Butler County Juvenile Court for operating in unnecessary secrecy.

        The commissioners are replacing the entire Children Services Board with new members to ensure the agency operates in a more open manner.

        Detective Reden is scheduled to speak at 10 a.m. Thursday during the commissioners' regular meeting.

        Janice Morse contributed to this report.


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