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UPDATE: Children's home director speaks

By Callan Gray, cgray@wcyb.com
Published On: Oct 11 2013 05:34:54 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 11 2013 09:00:00 PM CDT

We have new details about the sexual abuse allegations against Tri-State Baptist Children's Home workers.

BRISTOL, Tenn. -

We have new details about the sexual abuse allegations against Tri-State Baptist Children's Home workers.

We spoke to the home's director, Mike Nixon, Friday to hear their side of the story.

Nixon told us there is no way Rosa Emma Honeycutt knew the sexual abuse was happening.

She's been the supervisor at the facility since 1961, he said, adding that the home opened in 1960.

Nixon told us he was the first person to find out there was anything going on.

Someone came to him back in May 2013 to tell him there was abuse happening in the home, he said. Nixon wouldn't tell us his informant's name.

The Tri-State Children's Home board then held a meeting and that's when Honeycutt found out about the abuse, he said.

The Sullivan County District Attorney's office doesn't agree. "I can't get into the specific facts and names, but she did have proof sexual abuse was occurring," said prosecutor Julie Canter.

We read the Grand Jury indictment reports, which charge Honeycutt with violation of reporting child sexual abuse. The report charges her with knowing the abuse was going on from October 2012 to June 2013.

But director Nixon told us Honeycutt is innocent. She made the call to the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office at that board meeting, he said.

Nixon told us no one picked up when Honeycutt called so she left a message with a detective.

The Sullivan County District Attorney's office wouldn't tell us who tipped them off. "That is actually confidential and I can't really say," said Canter.

The Grand Jury charged employee Sonya Pickel with the facilitation of the rape of a child, statutory rape by an authority figure, aggravated statutory rape, and giving alcohol to minors. "Sonya Pickel was employed by the Baptist Home and had supervisory authority over both male and female children," said Canter.

Director Nixon told us, however, that Pickel was a house worker who cleaned the rooms and washed the dishes.

The sexual abuse also did not happen at the home but at a nearby hotel, he said. Nixon told us they have the receipt.

The Sullivan County Sheriff's Office said Honeycutt posted bail and is no longer in jail.

Nixon said he isn't able to go on camera until he talks to his lawyer on Tuesday.