The attorney representing Marvie Hill, the foster parent North Las Vegas police accuse of abusing multiple children in his care, said Tuesday there are witnesses who can testify that those making the allegations are "making up the facts."
"We firmly believe there is evidence to show our clients are absolutely innocent," attorney Bret Whipple said. "We feel very comfortable with going to trial and bringing the facts to a jury for an acquittal."
The comments came after Hill and his business partner, Eddie Wormwood, appeared Tuesday in North Las Vegas Justice Court. A preliminary hearing was set for Oct. 22.
Hill faces 20 counts of open and gross lewdness; five counts of lewdness with a minor under 14; one count of sexual assault, victim under 14; and one count of child abuse. The felony charges involve two victims.
Wormwood faces 10 felony counts of sexual assault, victim under 14.
Both Hill and Wormwood were arrested July 21 on similar allegations and released because of a paperwork issue.
About a dozen supporters filled the courtroom.
Police said that on Aug. 21, a 19-year-old man told detectives that when he was in Hill's custody as a 15-year-old in 2008, he was abused several times by Hill. According to the criminal complaints, Hill and Wormwood assaulted children orally and anally between 2005 and 2011.
Additional complaints about Hill have been made to police. They involve male foster children who were placed in his care. Police said another possible victim has come forward, bringing the total to three. Sgt. Tim Bedwell, police spokesman, said the department is reopening all old cases involving similar allegations from "at least a handful of different victims" involving Hill and Wormwood.
"We have prior, similar allegations that, taken alone at the time, we didn't have sufficient evidence to do prosecutions on," Bedwell said. "In light of all evidence coming forward now, we need to look to see if they're legitimate and need to be prosecuted."
Angele Morgan is a therapist with Red Rock Psychological Counseling, an outpatient clinic that specializes in treating victims of abuse, including patients referred by the Clark County Department of Family Services. In general, Morgan said children who wait years to report sexual abuse are embarrassed and worry about the consequences of telling someone.
"A lot of it goes into grooming from the actual abuser himself in getting children not to report," Morgan said. "That's a piece that people overlook in general, preparing for them not to disclose, convincing them that you're the one who instigated it, convincing them it was partly their fault. Sometimes it can be negative grooming by calling them names. A lot of times they do convince the children they're part of the problem."
Hill is president of United Family Services, Inc., a mental health and behavioral treatment foster care agency. According to the company's website, the group deals with the "placement of children whose intensive individual needs cannot be met through regular foster care."
Hill and Wormwood worked for United Family Transitional Homes, a nonprofit that ran a group halfway home for sex offenders. The home, near Cheyenne Avenue and Simmons Street, opened in 2005 and closed two years later. It housed as many as eight sex offenders convicted on a variety of charges, including statutory sexual seduction and sexual assault on a victim under 16.
Complaints from neighbors and city officials prompted state officials to move the offenders.
Family Services has suspended Hill's license and removed all children from his home.
Hill filed a District Court lawsuit last year against Family Services for restricting his foster care license with the intent to revoke it after more than a dozen complaints about his care, including allegations of physical abuse, threats of harm, sexual abuse and neglect.
Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@review journal.com or 383-0440.