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Jeffrey Rowan

Other Oklahoma Exonerations
In August 2008, an anonymous caller reported to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services that 26-year-old Jeffrey Rowan had sexually molested his two-year-old stepdaughter in the family’s home in Indianola, Oklahoma.

Rowan had married the girl’s mother, Melissa, in May 2008. At the time, Rowan cared for the couple’s one-year-old son as well as Melissa’s daughter from a prior relationship while Melissa was at work.

Amanda Britt, a Department of Human Services social worker, contacted the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office to report that an allegation had been made. The person who made the allegation was never identified.

Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Martin and Britt went to Rowan’s home and asked him and Melissa and the two-year-old to come to a child advocacy center. The two-year-old was interviewed but did not disclose any sexual abuse. Melissa was then interviewed and said that she had been hospitalized earlier in the year due to complications arising from the birth of the couple’s son. She said that she had two major surgeries and during that time Rowan assumed more household duties and also spent a great deal of time at the hospital.

In June and July 2008, Melissa said she took a job on the night shift at a convenience store. She said that when she went back to work, the two-year-old became more clingy and began acting out. She was obsessed with women’s breasts (Melissa was breast-feeding her son) and began exploring herself, particularly in the bathtub. Melissa said her daughter had asked about her baby brother’s genitals and the body parts of their new male dog.

Rowan was questioned next. Although it was standard practice to record interrogations, Martin later said he did not record the questioning because the tape recorder batteries were not working. A room at the advocacy center was specifically equipped with audio and video equipment, but the interrogation was done in a different conference room. Britt and Martin later claimed the room with recording equipment was for child interviews only.

Martin contended that Rowan admitted washing the girl’s genitals with his hand and that he may have penetrated her with a finger, that he saw the girl put crayons into her vagina, that on one occasion after he had sex with his wife, the two-year-old came into the bedroom and put her mouth on his penis, and that on one other occasion, he and the two-year-old were naked in bed and that when she climbed over him, his mouth may have touched her vagina.

Stacy Scroggins, a physician’s assistant, examined the two-year-old the following day. Scroggins later said that before she performed the examination, she was told that Rowan had admitted sexually abusing the girl. Scroggins reported finding some physical abnormalities in the vagina and anus that she said were consistent with sexual abuse.

Rowan was charged with child sex abuse and went on trial in Pittsburg County Criminal District Court in March 2009.

Martin testified to Rowan’s alleged admissions and Scroggins told the jury about her findings of physical abnormalities. Under cross-examination, Scroggins said she did not know who might have caused the abnormalities or if she could positively say that the abnormalities were the result of sexual abuse. Scroggins admitted that the abnormalities in the vagina could have been self-inflicted by the girl and that the abnormalities she found in the anus could have been caused by a large bowel movement.

Scroggins testified that she had examined the girl two or three months earlier as part of a regular medical visit. At that time, Scroggins said she noticed some unusual behavior by the girl. The girl had rubbed Scroggins’ legs, tried to get under her skirt to touch her genitals and also tried to touch her breasts as well as the breasts of a nurse who gave the girl an inoculation. Scroggins admitted under cross-examination that she never told the girl’s mother about the behavior.

Melissa, the girl’s mother, testified while she had not seen the girl acting out sexually, she did see the girl insert a crayon into her vagina and that the girl was exploring herself at bath time. Melissa said she had filed for divorce after Rowan was charged, but that she did not believe he had molested the girl. She also said that Martin had mischaracterized some of her statements in the report of her interview with him and Britt.

Rowan testified in his own defense and denied telling Martin that he improperly touched the girl or had any sexual contact of any kind. Rowan said he did bathe the girl, but only washed the girl’s hair and back. He said the girl had been taught how to wash the rest of her body, including her genitals.

On March 11, 2009, Rowan was convicted of sexual abuse of a child and he was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

While the appeal was pending, the Pittsburg County District Attorney informed Rowan’s defense lawyer that Scroggins, the physician assistant who had examined the victim, had her license suspended for a drug problem during the time of the examination. As part of the suspension process, Scroggins admitted forging dozens of prescriptions to obtain pain-killers and she was admitted to an inpatient drug rehabilitation facility.

Rowan’s lawyer filed a motion for a new trial and in 2011, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals vacated Rowan’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

In January 2012, the District Attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case because its three chief witnesses would likely refuse to testify and invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Scroggins had already refused to testify in another case where she was a witness, the prosecution reported.

The prosecution also disclosed that Britt, the social services worker on the Rowan case, was under investigation and had resigned her job after it was discovered that a convicted sex offender from Florida was living in Britt’s home. The convicted sex offender had subsequently pled guilty to failing to register with the state sex offender registry and to living within 2000 feet of a school.

And finally, the prosecution revealed that Martin, the sheriff’s deputy who had interrogated Rowan, had resigned from the sheriff’s department following an investigation of an allegation that Martin had been heard to say that he would plant evidence. The prosecution did not disclose any other specific information about what Martin meant or the investigation.

On January 25, 2012, the prosecution’s motion was granted, the case was dismissed and Rowan was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/6/2014
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Sentence:35 years
Age at the date of reported crime:26
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No