DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Darlington County Sheriff's Office's special victims unit arrested a couple who allegedly abused five children.
Sheriff Tony Chavis took office in January 2017 and created the SVU shortly thereafter. During an investigation like the one with 44-year-old James Hawkins and 22-year-old Ida Gregg, DCSO officials said it's vital to have victims' advocates to help properly prosecute these cases.
"If you beat your wife, if you beat your children, if you victimize vulnerable adults, this unit is going to lock you up and put you in jail, and this activity is not going to be tolerated any longer," said DCSO Lt. Robert Kilgo.
Kilgo said the unit consists of six officers either assigned to sex offender, child abuse, domestic violence or venerable adults cases, and all are certified victims advocates.
In this past weekend's case, Hawkins and Gregg were arrested after investigators were called to Sweetbay Road in Darlington County near Mechanicsville Highway.
"Our officers have done EPC, or emergency protective custody, so we have ensured these children are taken into the custody of the Department of Social Services," Kilgo said.
DSS officials were the first to report the child abuse to the sheriff's office. They showed the investigators alleged bruises and bloody bandages on the children's' bottoms, the incident reporter stated.
There were reportedly scars on one boy's back, a hole in the back of one of the girl's heads from a wooden paddle striking her while being tied up with duct tape, a black eye on one child, and scars on the kids' legs from electrical cords hitting them, the report said.
Investigators said the children all smelled like they hadn't showered and were starving.
Neighbors around Sweetbay Road said they did not know the couple and were not aware of what DCSO said was going on there. The alleged child abuse occurred between April and July at multiple residences in Darlington County.
"They went beyond what anybody should do to a child and that's why we have this special victims unit, to ensure these cases are thoroughly vetted, thoroughly investigated, so our people can focus on these things and put these people in jail that do these things to vulnerable victims such as children," Kilgo said.
Back in June 2015, James Hawkins was charged with four counts of unlawful neglect of a child, but the solicitor's office declined to prosecute all the charges, according to information from the state's public index.
On Oct. 11, both Hawkins and Gregg will have their first court appearance at the Darlington County Courthouse.