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Grand jury indicts Taswell couple

Multiple neglect, sexual abuse, battery charges filed

August 14, 2013
A Taswell husband and wife have been charged with multiple counts of neglect of their four adopted children, while the husband also has been charged with various sexual crimes and battery.

Bernie Harmon Jr.

Melissa Harmon
Bernie Harmon Jr., 46, and his wife, Melissa, 43, were arrested July 26 following several indictments handed down by a Crawford County grand jury.

Both Harmons were charged with 12 counts of Class D felony neglect of a dependent, while Bernie Harmon also was charged 21 other counts, including sexual misconduct with a minor, child molesting, vicarious sexual gratification and battery.

The Harmons are accused of exposing the two girls, ages 16 and 15, and two boys, ages 13 and 11, on or about and between Jan. 1, 2009, and March 19, 2013, to a home environment wherein they were "subjected to unreasonable corporal punishment and/or not provided adequate food/nutrition resulting in psychological and/or physical harm."

They also allegedly confined each of the children to an attic on or about and between Jan. 1, 2013, and March 19, 2013, as well as failed to enroll them in school or provide an education as required by law on or about and between Jan. 1, 2012, and March 19, 2013.

Bernie Harmon's other charges include four counts of Class B felony sexual misconduct with a minor, two counts of Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor, one count of Class B felony child molesting, two counts of Class C felony child molesting, six counts of Class B felony various sexual gratification, two counts of Class C felony vicarious sexual gratification, one count of Class C felony battery, two counts of Class D felony battery and one count of Class A misdemeanor battery.

Harmon's additional charges stem from incidents that occurred between April 9, 2009, and March 19, 2013. He is accused of having sexual intercourse with the older girl, inappropriately touching both girls and knowingly or intentionally directing, aiding, inducing or causing the older boy to engage in sexual activity, including intercourse, with both girls.

The three felony battery charges stem from incidents on or about March 17, 2013, where Harmon is accused of striking the three younger children several times with a whip. The misdemeanor felony charge is for allegedly striking the older girl with a whip between March 1 and 19, 2013.

Crawford County Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg on Monday said the investigation began on March 19, after the two boys, who had run away from the home and had been brought to the Crawford County Judicial Complex in English, made the accusations. Following the investigation, she called for the grand jury.

"It made the best sense based on the evidence we knew at the time," she said, adding the grand jury was able to consider a variety of evidence.

Hillenburg said the two girls are biological siblings, as are the two boys, and all four were adopted by the Harmons in 2008, after living in the home as foster children. The children were removed from the home when the investigation began, she said.

Melissa Harmon, who has had a bus route for the Crawford County Community School Corp. since Sept. 7, 1999, was suspended with pay on April 16, the date school officials learned of the investigation, Dr. Mark Eastridge, the corporation's superintendent, said. A substitute driver has taken over her route, he said.

Bernie Harmon, who had driven a bus route from Aug. 18, 1999, until Dec. 31, 2012, and then served as a substitute driver, was suspended from serving as a substitute, Eastridge said.

He said the school's board of trustees on Aug. 8 voted to continue the suspensions.

Melissa Harmon was released from the Crawford County Jail after posting a $20,000 (25 percent) bond on Aug. 6.

Bernie Harmon remained incarcerated as of Monday on a $50,000 full cash bond.

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