Sheriff says girls moved from Bethel Home in Petal
By The Associated Press
The Clarion-Ledger, May 20, 2004

PETAL — About 40 teenage girls have been removed from a privately run, at-risk home in Petal and the case was turned over to the Forrest County Youth Court.

The girls were transferred Wednesday night from the Bethel Home to an undisclosed location for their safety, said Sheriff Billy McGee. State Department of Human Services spokesman Rick Whitlow said Thursday the agency would have no comment.

“We’re referring all inquiries to the youth court in the county,” Whitlow said.

Under Mississippi law, Youth Court proceedings are confidential.

Sheriff Billy McGee said several state agencies — including DHS, the attorney general’ office and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality — were at the privately owned facility for teenage girls for most of the day Wednesday.

“Apparently, the state received some complaints regarding some sort of mistreatment of the girls,” McGee said. “I really don’t know what those complaints are, we were just called in to provide security and to transport the girls to a different location.”

The sheriff said that the parents of the girls were being notified to come and pick up their children.

“Until they are picked up from that location, they are under the custody of DHS,” he said. “Overall, there are about 30-40 kids involved.”

McGee said the Bethel Home is located in Petal, near the Jones County line. He said the facility was operated by a church but he was not sure which one.

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