Recently, more awareness has been brought to child abuse, both sexual and physical, along with the exploitation of children. All of which need to be reported.
But once it’s reported, who handles those cases?
We introduce you to four of the detectives who investigate crimes against children in San Angelo and Tom Green County.
Sgt. Jeremy Cannady began his career with the San Angelo Police Department in 2009. After becoming a detective in 2014, he volunteered to work in the Crimes Against Children Unit.
He then promoted to Sergeant and went back on patrol for just under a year. In 2020, the opportunity to be the Sergeant over the Crimes Against Children Unit became available. He stepped into that role in February.
“I’ve gone to Waco to testify in Federal Court, I’ve had cases helping OSI at Goodfellow, and we get requests all the time for instances that happened elsewhere but the victim is here or the suspect is here,” Cannady said.
Detective Roger Spearman has been with the San Angelo Police Department for 26 and a half years. Three years ago, he decided to join the Crimes Against Children Unit.
“I had reached a point to where I wanted something different. It was time to get off the street and go into a new part of my career. I wanted to feel like I was making more of a difference with the innocent in the world,” Spearman said.
Spearman says children are truly innocent and in these cases, they were simply in a position where someone could take advantage of them and prey on them.
“I thought it would be a very rewarding experience to be the voice for the children and to stand up for them when no one else in their life would,” Spearman said.
Along with Sgt. Cannady and Detective Spearman, there are two other detectives that make up the San Angelo Police Depratment’s Crimes Against Children Unit.
Over at the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, there are two investigators who handle nearly all of the cases involving the abuse of children.
Sgt. Andrew Alwine joined the Criminal Investigations Division at the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office in 2014. He says at first, he worked a few cases involving crimes against children but mostly had cases involving burglary, stolen vehicles, and the like.
However, since 2016, his investigations became almost solely focused on crimes against children. Sgt. Alwine is also part of the area’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. However, this is not what he originally envisioned doing with his career.
“I didn’t want to. I didn’t start out wanting to be in child crimes. That was something I wasn’t looking forward to. I wanted to be an investigator, I enjoyed the process of the investigation, I enjoyed the outcomes of felony investigations but being in child crimes wasn’t what I intended to do with my career,” Alwine said.
Sgt. Corey Speck has been part of the Criminal Investigations Division for the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office for a little over five years and has been investigating crimes against children throughout that time.
“I did have an idea that this is what I wanted to do. When you meet with these families, you’re seeing them on the worst days that they have. The big thing is to be there for them, be the rock for them,” Speck said.
Speck credits another investigator with the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, Ron Sanders who is now retired, for helping him get a better understanding of these types of cases.
When it comes to the case load for each detective, some can recall the exact number of child abuse cases they’ve worked, others give a range or average number of cases they recieve each year.
“To date, I have worked 245 felony investigations into child abuse, both physical and sexual,” Spearman said.
“Usually range around 20 to 30 cases a year,” Speck said.
“Right around 500 crimes against children allegations, child abuse cases,” Cannady said. For context, throughout his years as a detective, Cannady says he has worked about 650 cases overall. Those not related to child crimes involve other crimes, like burglary.
“I couldn’t put a number on it right offhand but several hundred,” Alwine said.
Something that each detective pointed out, not all of the allegations of child abuse are founded. It could be that a case is rooted in retaliation or, someone trying to harm another person with an accusation of this type. Some cases may not be what they seem but, if it is reported, it gets investigated.
Many of the cases these detectives recieve come from the local Child Protective Services office.
“Fifty to 70 percent of our case work comes from the CPS intakes,” Cannady said.
Sgt. Cannady says that he is glad school is back in session because often times, children feel safer at school than they do in their own homes. School campuses are frequently where abuse is noted and reported or outcries are made. From there, CPS and the detectives get involved. A specialist interviews the child. The detectives monitor the interview and take notes from a different room. The detectives can also communicate with the specialist via an earpiece.
“One thing we try not to do is interview the kids multiple times. We don’t want to re-offend them. They’ve already gone through something that’s horrible so we try to minimize that as much as possible,” Speck said.
I asked each detective what they wished people knew about their jobs or, what they’d like to tell people about their jobs. Here are their responses.
The Emotional Toll
With each case, the investigators interview all of the people involved. If there is evidence, such as videos or pictures, they have to review that evidence and document details.
“We get a bunch of stuff that nobody should have to see and nobody wants to see. But that’s part of the investigation. We have to watch all of that,” Cannady said.
Sgt. Alwine investigates most of the cases involving child pornography (sometimes called Child Sexual Abuse Material, CSAM) at the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office.
“I think the worst thing you could ever imagine in the worst horror movie you’ve seen or book you’ve ever read we’ve seen or heard. Everyone things San Angelo, Tom Green County is a small little parcel of Texas that’s sheltered and shielded but…I didn’t expect in my career to see what I’ve seen and listen to what I’ve listened to. I wish I could tell you everything I’ve seen and some of the sounds that I’ve heard…still comes back today,” Alwine said.
The detectives say they do have cases that stick with them where they can remember names, details, and outcomes of the investigation. Most of them can recall the first few cases they were given.
“It’s not so much that you have to learn how to deal with it, it’s more that you have to learn that it’s part of your life now, you live with it,” Alwine said.
They all noted that people in law enforcement are often seen or portrayed as robots with no emotions at all. They say it’s actually the opposite. However, they have learned to investigate from a place of both empathy and strength.
“While it does affect us, I think we have the ability to put the greater good in front of that,” Alwine said.
“You do have to, to a degree, approach it from almost a clinical standpoint. You empathize with the victim but at the same time, you have to keep your emotions in check because you do have a job to do,” Spearman said.
“I think one of the main things of being able to do this and survive is… not forget it, but put it into the back of your mind. That’s one of the things I tried to do when I first came back here, if it’s at work, it stays at work, don’t take it to the home life,” Speck said.
Each detective says taking care of themselves is important and they rely on various outlets to stay healthy mentally.
For Sgt. Speck, it’s golf, going to concerts, and football games. For Sgt. Cannady, it’s hunting and working on home improvement projects. Sgt. Alwine’s choices are spending time with his family and practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Detective Spearman says listening to Christian music to and from work helps him reset his perspective and refocus on the bigger picture.
“It is truly a battle between good and evil,” Spearman said.
The outcomes of the cases may not always be what the victims, their family members, or the detectives want but all four of the investigators say that bringing some sort of closure, innocence, and strength back to the children is rewarding.
“It’s unbelievable. You see it firsthand. You see the good that you bring back into these children’s lives and when it works, it’s amazing. Good will win. It will triumph over evil but sometimes it requires a fight. I am willing to do that. To step up and fight for these children and protect them,” Spearman said.
When it comes to victims of these kinds of crimes, whether they’ve come forward or not, the detectives wanted to share this message.
To learn more about how you can get involved, learn the signs of child abuse, or to make an outcry, visit the Children’s Advocacy Center of Greater West Texas’ website, www.cacgreaterwtx.org. Or visit the Open Arms Rape Crisis Center and LGBT+ Services’ website, openarmscv.com.
To contact investigators at the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, visit their website, or call 325-655-8111.
To contact investigators at the San Angelo Police Department, visit their website, or call 325-657-4315.
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