By Clint Parker
Weaverville – Just a day after a local news outlet reported that a former Weaverville Police Officer had been accused of sending a sexual in nature picture to an 11-year-old girl, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department issued an arrest warrant for Jeremy Jenkins, 44, of Mars Hill on a misdemeanor charge of disseminating material/performance harmful to minors. This, after the mother of the girl, gave her daughter’s cell phone to Buncombe County investigators with the alleged picture back in October of 2019. Still, no action by the sheriff’s office had taken place in the three months since.
Then last week, Skyline News, a Facebook-based news source reporting on this allegation, along with a separate claim that “a former Weaverville Police officer had allegedly sent sexual pictures of himself to a minor younger than 12 years old via social media. The incident reportedly happened in 2012 and according to Weaverville Police Chief Ron Davis, the officer resigned soon after the allegations. Skyline could not find any charges or arrests against the officer.”
However, retired Weaverville Police Chief Greg Stephens disputes the Skyline account. Stephens told the Tribune, “North Carolina law prevents me from addressing Mr. Jenkins’ case directly, but as a retired Weaverville Police Chief, I can say that if there was any evidence of criminal wrongdoing against an officer, I would have taken the appropriate action.”
“A complaint can be received on an officer, but without evidence or witnesses, there’s nothing that can be done,” added Stephens.
Skyline reported that Jenkins was also a North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agent after leaving Weaverville Police, but, according to Skyline News, resigned on December 20th, 2019. The NC ALE would not give the reason for the resignation.
While the warrant is dated October 27th of last year, the warrant was not served until the matter showed up in a post on Facebook and Skyline reported on it. Skyline reported, “on February 19th, 2020, Karen Bartlett posted a picture on Facebook of which she alleges is a picture the ALE agent sent to her 11-year-old daughter.
“In an interview with Skyline, Bartlett says she reported the picture sent to her daughter to the BC Sheriffs Department on October 28th, 2019. Bartlett said, ‘We gave them (the BCSO) my daughter’s phone and they seized Jeremy Jenkins’ (the ALE agents), phone.’ While Bartlett says she gave the phone on October 28th of 2019, the warrant is dated October 27th, a day before the sheriff’s office supposedly had the phone.”
The Tribune asked Aaron Sarver with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, why the delay in serving the warrant? “A warrant for Mr. Jenkins was issued on February 21, 2020. As you know, Mr. Jenkins turned himself in on Saturday morning,” said Sarver. “The warrant date listed on the arrest report is incorrect. It was a data entry error.”
While Sarver’s answer addresses the date on the warrant, it doesn’t address why the sheriff’s office waited over three months to bring the charge against Jenkins. This allowed Jenkins to remain on the job for an additional two months with ALE, which will now bring into question any arrests that Jenkins has made, especially within the last two months of his time with ALE. It also calls into question the time of the issuing of the warrant, only a day or two after the Skyline News and a Facebook post bring the alleged incident to light.
Another question needing to be answered is why Jenkins was not charged with the more severe charge of (14-190.8) Dissemination to minors under the age of 13 years, which is a Class I felony instead of the misdemeanor charge he received. The law reads, “Every person 18 years of age or older who knowingly disseminates to any minor under the age of 13 years any material which he knows or reasonably should know to be obscene within the meaning of G.S. 14-190.1 shall be punished as a Class I felon.”