WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O'Neill says thanks to more than 2,100 cases of child abuse in the county last year, he is refocusing his office and reassigning the full-time duties of some prosecutors.
O'Neill says last year 2,184 cases of child abuse were reported in Forsyth County. He now has two prosecutors working full-time on just child abuse.
"So, we have sort of shifted our focus from white-collar type crime to refocus our energy and limited resources to going after abusers of children," said O'Neill.
Mitzi Cartrette from Forsyth County said her 6-year-old grandson, Ashton, was abused by a caregiver. He now has permanent brain damage.
“He’ll never graduate from high school, he will never drive a car, he will never live on his own,” said Cartrette, who is supporting the District Attorney's shift in focus.
Last winter, Cartrette joined the Davenport family from Union County in fighting for Kilah's law. The law is named after 4-year-old Kilah Davenport.
Kilah’s stepfather is facing child abuse charges after investigators in Union County say he beat the young girl’s head into a wall causing damage to 90% of her brain.
Davenport’s mother and grandmother, along with Cartrette, say it’s not fair that current law only allows 3 to 9 years of jail time for people convicted of felony child abuse.
Kilah’s law has been passed by the State House and is awaiting Senate approval.
It would require abusers convicted of inflicting permanent bodily harm to children to serve 25 years to life in prison.
O'Neill says his office's aggressive approach, along with Kilah's Law, should send a loud and clear message.
"We want the message out there, that if you hurt a child in Forsyth County you can expect we will bring all resources we have in this office," said O'Neill.
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month.