The brutal beating that Ted Rollins inflicted upon his stepson in 1995 should have been treated, under the law, for what it was--a case of child abuse.
Our research shows the case was not handled properly, and numerous individuals failed in their obligation to report the abuse to the North Carolina Division of Social Services. That raises this troubling question: Is our "justice system" willing to look the other way on child abuse when the perpetrator is from a family with substantial money and power?
Ted Rollins now is the CEO of Campus Crest Communities, a company that builds student housing near universities around the country and completed a $380-million Wall Street IPO in late 2010. Campus Crest did not exist in 1995, but Rollins was head of American Textile Services, which was one of the largest employers in Franklin County, North Carolina, where the beating took place.
That made Rollins a prominent figure in and around Louisburg, North Carolina, where he lived with his second wife, Sherry Carroll Rollins; their infant daughter, Sarah Rollins; and Eric and Zac Parrish, who were Sherry Rollins' sons by her first marriage--and Ted Rollins' stepsons. Zac Parrish was about 15 years old in September 1995 when Ted Rollins beat him so severely that the youngster was rushed to an emergency room via ambulance, his face a bloody mask.
Was there any doubt that Zac Parrish had been abused? Consider Sherry Rollins description of the trip to the hospital with her son. (The full interview can be viewed in a video at the end of this post.)
In the ambulance, my daughter and I were with him. I believe he was given oxygen. He was badly beaten. He had lacerations around his mouth. Ted had repeatedly beaten him around the mouth area. You could see the inside of his lip hanging down.
Anyone who sees a child in such condition is required by North Carolina law to report it as a case of possible abuse. So why was that not done? Why did the child-protection system in the state fail Zac Parrish?
The failure is particularly egregious when you consider that in 1993, North Carolina Social Services had received substantial evidence of a dysfunctional relationship between Ted Rollins and Zac Parrish. (More on that in upcoming posts.) The same child was beaten senseless by the same stepfather two years later, and it doesn't raise an eyebrow with authorities?
Did the fact Ted Rollins belongs to one of the nation's wealthiest families help him escape serious scrutiny? Does Atlanta-based Rollins Inc., the parent company of Orkin Pest Control, have the kind of power and legal resources that can help provide cover for a family member who abuses a child? Randall and Gary Rollins, the chairman and president of Rollins Inc., are both billionaires--and they are Ted Rollins' cousins, with Randall and Ted joining in a business venture called St. James Capital.
Rollins Inc. frequently enlists the services of one of the nation's most powerful law firms, a Chicago-based outfit called Sidley Austin. What kind of status does Sidley Austin wield in the legal realm? It is billed as one of the oldest law firms in the world and the sixth largest corporate firm with a U.S. base. Could that kind of legal clout help get Ted Rollins out of a jam? We will be addressing that question in a future post, but for now, let's consider the law that should have been applied when Zac Parrish was beaten.
Since the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974 (CAPTA), states have received federal funding to provide child protection and welfare services. CAPTA also sets a minimum definition of child abuse and neglect.
North Carolina has a two-tiered set of laws to deal with possible cases of child abuse. One involves a juvenile system, which is designed to protect children; the other is the criminal system, which is designed to punish abusers. Our research indicates that Ted Rollins should have been subjected to both sets of child-abuse laws. But the record shows he was subjected to neither.
The juvenile process is governed by Chapter 7B of the North Carolina General Statutes, which defines an "abused juvenile" as follows:
As used in this Subchapter, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the following words have the listed meanings:
(1) Abused juvenile – Any juvenile less than 18 years of age whose parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker:
a. Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the juvenile a serious physical injury by other than accidental means;
b. Creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of serious physical injury to the juvenile by other than accidental means;
c. Uses or allows to be used upon the juvenile cruel or grossly inappropriate procedures or cruel or grossly inappropriate devices to modify behavior;
That is not the full definition, but Zac Parrish met all three of those criteria for an "abused juvenile" under North Carolina law. Based on Sherry Rollins' description of the beating, let's consider the individuals who had overwhelming reason to believe that Zac Parrish was the victim of child abuse:
* At least one sheriff's deputy;
* At least two ambulance personnel;
* Multiple medical professionals in a hospital emergency room.
What were all of those people required by law to do? Section 7B-301 spells it out:
7B‑301. Duty to report abuse, neglect, dependency, or death due to maltreatment. Any person or institution who has cause to suspect that any juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, as defined by G.S. 7B‑101, or has died as the result of maltreatment, shall report the case of that juvenile to the director of the department of social services in the county where the juvenile resides or is found. The report may be made orally, by telephone, or in writing. . . .
We've seen no evidence that anyone reported the abuse, as required by law. It appears the system that was designed to protect Zac Parrish from Ted Rollins was bypassed completely. Based on Sherry Rollins' statements about the beating, it appears her husband also should have been subject to North Carolina's criminal child-abuse statute. That is not certain because the law is based on the victim's age, and strangely, the age standard is different from the juvenile-code definition of a child (less than 18 years of age). The applicable law appears to be Section 14-318.4 of the North Carolina General Statutes. It states:
14‑318.4. Child abuse a felony
(a) A parent or any other person providing care to or supervision of a child less than 16 years of age who intentionally inflicts any serious physical injury upon or to the child or who intentionally commits an assault upon the child which results in any serious physical injury to the child is guilty of a Class E felony, except as otherwise provided in subsection (a3) of this section.
Why is a child defined as "less than 18" under the juvenile code and "less than 16" under the criminal code? We have no idea. But our research clearly shows that Ted Rollins intentionally inflicted serious physical injury upon Zac Parrish, which would be a felony. The only question has to do with Zac Parrish's age at the time of the beating--and Sherry Rollins has been uncertain on that point. In our videotaped interview, she states that her son was 14 at the time of the beating. On other occasions she has said he was 15. In either case, Ted Rollins would have been subject to a felony child-abuse charge.
If Zac Parrish had reached his 16th birthday at the time of the beating--and it appears that is the oldest he could have been--the criminal child-abuse statute would not have been in play. Instead, the case would have been covered by a general assault statute.
This much is certain: Zac Parrish was not protected the way he should have been--and Ted Rollins was not scrutinized the way he should have been. And the 1995 beating was not the first time North Carolina officials failed to intervene effectively in the troubled Rollins household.