FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 72 JV-18-761],
HONORABLE STACEY ZIMMERMAN, JUDGE
Lanford, Arkansas Public Defender Commission, for appellant.
Firth, Office of Chief Counsel, for appellee.
Group, PLLC, by: Keith L. Chrestman, attorney ad litem for
B. SWITZER, Judge
Libokmeto appeals from the November 2, 2018 adjudication and
disposition order finding MO dependent-neglected. MO, who was
thirteen years old when this case began, had been living in
the custody of Joseia and Katrinda Libokmeto. A petition
for emergency custody and dependency-neglect concerning MO
and two male juveniles living in the same household, JL and
RO, was filed on September 12, 2018. Emergency custody
was ordered the same day, the probable-cause order was
entered on September 17, 2018, and the dependency-neglect
hearing was held on November 1, 2018. The trial court
specifically found that Joseia had sexually abused MO;
therefore, MO was adjudicated dependent-neglected. Joseia
contends the trial court clearly erred in making this
finding. We disagree and affirm.
dependent-neglected juvenile includes any juvenile who is at
substantial risk of serious harm as a result of sexual abuse
or parental unfitness. Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-303(18)(A)
(Supp. 2017). Dependency-neglect allegations must be proved
by a preponderance of the evidence. Araujo v. Ark. Dept
of Human Servs., 2019 Ark.App. 181, 574 S.W.3d 683. The
purpose of adjudication hearings is to determine whether the
allegations in a petition are substantiated by the proof.
Id. In our review of a dependency-neglect
adjudication, we defer to the trial courts superior position
to observe the parties and judge the witnesses credibility.
Id. We will not reverse the trial courts findings
unless they are clearly erroneous. Id. A finding is
clearly erroneous when, even though there is evidence to
support it, on the entire evidence we are left with a
definite and firm conviction that the trial court made a
this appeal, Joseia contends the trial court clearly erred in
finding dependency-neglect based on sexual abuse because the
finding "rested solely on the mere allegation of a
thirteen-year-old intellectually disabled girl who never
testified, thus preventing the circuit court from adequately
assessing her credibility." We hold that the trial court
did not err.
hearing, Amber OMalley was qualified as an expert witness
and testified that she conducted a sexual-assault physical
examination of MO. OMalley found no anal or genital injury
but testified that the lack of physical findings did not
negate sexual contact. She explained that she made a record
of her examination, and it was admitted without objection as
States exhibit No. 5.
cross-examination, OMalley explained she did not get a
report of abuse directly from MO. OMalley documented in her
examination record a third-party advocates account of the
initial interview with MO. In the interview, MO reported
penile-genital contact, penile-anal contact, and forced use
of MOs hand on the offenders
penis. MO also reported she was afraid to go home because the
offender had raped her, and MO reported "it hurts down
there," pointing to her vaginal area. The advocate
provided OMalley these "disclosures" before her
examination so that she did not have to ask MO questions that
could revictimize her. OMalley further stated that the
information was used for diagnosis and treatment purposes.
She testified that she was told MO was intellectually
disabled, and although she wrote in her report that MO was
not able to give full answers due to "intellectual
disability," she still documented the answers MO was
able to give.
Michael McHenry, who works with the Arkansas State Police
Crimes Against Children Division, testified without objection
that he observed Lindsey Carter, a child advocate and
forensic interviewer at the Childrens Safety Center, conduct
an interview with MO. MO disclosed the sexual assault during