AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a memo released by The Refuge — a center for victims of sex trafficking — a Bastrop County grand jury has declined to indict Refuge employees on charges stemming from allegations of sexual abuse of children.
The memo appears to be a photocopy of a letter from the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office. It was sent to KXAN investigators by a spokesperson from The Refuge, and KXAN has reached out to the sheriff’s office and the Bastrop County District Attorney to verify the validity of the memo.
The letter reads, “The Grand Jury did not find sufficient evidence to support an indictment on any criminal offense.”
Earlier this year, monitors overseeing the Texas foster care system filed a document in court claiming there were concerns about ongoing sexual abuse of young people at The Refuge. At the time, the Refuge’s leadership acknowledged two incidents were under investigation.
Governor Greg Abbott called for the Texas Rangers to investigate, and the agency initially said there was “no evidence” of sexual abuse or trafficking. However, in subsequent hearings on the issue in front of lawmakers at the Capitol, DPS Director Colonel Steven McCraw said he was expecting to see the Bastrop County district attorney prosecute someone for sexual exploitation of a minor and even child pornography.
In March, McCraw said the “only thing” investigators were waiting on was “digital evidence.”
The new memo from the sheriff’s office to The Refuge notes that the case was presented before the grand jury by a BCSO investigator and a Texas Ranger. The letter states that the sheriff’s office does not expect any “further inquiry in this matter.”
Because the records contain sensitive information about minors, the records will remain sealed, according to the memo.
Brooke Crowder, the founder and CEO of The Refuge said in a statement, in part, “We expected a different outcome from the grand jury because our singular goal has been justice for our two residents who were mistreated by a former employee.”
After the allegations surfaced, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, suspended operations at The Refuge and temporarily removed the children living there.
In response to the memo, Crowder said, “We are humbled that this decision seems to clear the final obstacle to the restoration of our license, and we hope that our licensing agency and elected officials will expedite that process. It is time to once again welcome to our healing community the children whose lives have been upended by exploitation so they can continue their healing process in earnest.”