JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Based on the pictures Channel 4 investigator Jennifer Waugh discovered, it’s hard to imagine how anyone who walked into the house a 9-year-old Jacksonville girl was living in, could miss the signs that something terrible was happening to that young child.
One of the photos we found in the court file, shows a vanity plate hanging on the young girl’s bedroom door that reads, “Uncle Robert Loves…(her name).” Police have blacked out her name to protect her identity. Another photo taken inside the child’s room, right next to her bed, shows a framed photo of “Uncle” Robert. And behind it, a poem titled “I Love You.”
Not what you would expect in a young girl’s bedroom, especially since 51-year-old Robert Young is not the girl’s uncle, but a friend of her father, Christopher Perry. Prosecutors say Perry and the girl’s mother allowed Young to sleep in the same bed with the 9-year-old even thought they knew he was a convicted sex offender.
We’re also learning more about Young’s earlier conviction that gave him that sex offender label. In 1991, Young was arrested when police learned a 13-year-old living in his home, was pregnant. She is mentally impaired and Young admitted to having sex with her. He pleaded guilty and spent four years in prison and 12 years on probation.
Fast forward to now. Young was living in the same room with another child. That 9-year-old girl told police she was forced to dress up and act out Young’s fantasies. She also told police he’d been raping her for months. And while the rapes were happening, police say the little girl’s mother knew.
IMAGES: Photos inside home, bedroom
In an interrogation video, we see the child’s mother, Mary Perry, crying as she waited for investigators to come into the room and interview her. According to the police report, Mary Perry told investigators she saw Young lying in bed with her daughter. She says she saw the sex offender lying in bed and touching her. She says she ignored the situation because she herself was having a sexual relationship with Young and was afraid he would tell her husband.
“To know that your child is being sexually abused and not do anything about it, that just sickens me,” says Channel 4 Crime Analyst Ken Jefferson. Jefferson is a former sex crimes detective and is speaking from years of experience investigating sex abuse cases.
He says Young was manipulating everyone.
“I saw that all the time with parents and a lot of times they do that because they’re depending on that person to provide an income coming in,” says Jefferson.
We’ve learned that income, was actually shopping sprees. Prosecutors say Young would take the family to Walmart in exchange for time with the little girl.
Investigators say it wasn’t just the 9-year-old’s parents who were allowing it to happen, but also the girl’s grandmother, who was living with them too.
When the Department of Children and Families was finally tipped off to what was happening, the child still wasn’t removed from the home. Instead, the family was asked to sign a Safety Plan, promising they would not let the girl or her younger siblings be alone with the sex offender.
“To leave that child in that environment is total negligence on the part of DCF,” says Jefferson.
We tried to talk to DCF in recent weeks about this story, but the department declined an on camera interview. However, when we first reported this story in March of 2011, we asked the agency then about why the girl wasn’t removed. Here’s how John Harrell with DCF responded to our question:
“The parents said it was a family friend and because when talking to people who knew this family, the family checked out and the children said there was nothing unusual going on. It had been 20 years since his (Robert Young) conviction,” said Harrell.
Again while DCF did not agree to an on camera interview for this story, the department says the first time it went to the home, the investigator saw no marks or bruises on any of the children in the home and checked Young's probation status. His probation ended in 2004 so there is no law preventing him from living with children.
Three months after the first tip to DCF, another one comes in about the 9-year-old being sexually abused inside the home. This time, they say the girl tells the investigators what’s happening to her.
Robert Young was arrested. We obtained a bit of his interrogation tape from prosecutors as well, but we aren’t allowed to air most of it since he has yet to go to trial. Young’s daughter, Cynthia Isaac, told us in a March 2011 interview about a conversation she had with her father about his arrest.
“He was like oh, I’m probably going to go to jail. Stuff like that. For What? Messing with this 9 year old little girl. I was sleeping in the bed with her, I was taking her everywhere I go,” explained Isaac.
In a written statement DCF provided to us for this story, it says since the arrests, all DCF investigators have completed new and extensive training on techniques for interviewing suspected victims of child abuse. DCF says these techniques include establishing a connection with the child so they can be more open in disclosing whether they have been abused.
Young’s trial is scheduled to start in August. The child’s parents and grandmother are also facing charges.