- Associated Press - Saturday, December 23, 2017

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - When a child victim is ready to tell their story, West Virginia State Police Cpl. Marlene Moore is there to listen.

Moore, originally of Charleston, has conducted hundreds of forensic interviews for the West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children’s Units, many of which have led to the conviction of sexual predators and child abusers in Cabell County and surrounding areas.

While her courtroom success seems like it’s from a lifetime of experience as a law enforcement officer, Moore did not start her career with the West Virginia State Police until 2003.

She had originally wanted to be a nurse, but after realizing she did not have the bedside manner for the job, she worked as a computer operator before joining Kanawha County Schools as a substitute teachers’ aid and then attendance clerk. She worked closely with students who missed a lot of school, or were at risk to, by getting involved with their lives, parents, social workers and others to keep them on track.

“I always had an interest in things being right and things being wrong and fixing things,” she said.

Moore, who said she had always been an athlete, also worked as an aerobics instructor. She nonchalantly added she had even participated in a couple Boston Marathons in her younger years.

After an opening became available for the Crimes Against Children’s Unit seven years ago, Moore said she thought that experience would give her success in the area.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about it, about like internet crimes, and I still don’t know a whole lot about everything, but I learn every day,” she said. “I like what I do, but the volume surprises me.”

In her time with the WVSP, the crime of sexual assault or abuse has changed. It used to be the crime encompassed just a sex act, but with today’s technology, social media and other digital media, Moore is filing many warrants and other items.

“You start small, and it just opens like a dam bursting,” she said. “I go to a lot of training, and I have no qualms about asking a co-worker who might know a little more than I do.”

For example, she credited Trooper Rachel Grose for helping her with knowledge on internet crimes.

Moore also teaches what she knows at the police academy.

“I stay busy. I like what I do,” she said. “Sometimes I think there’s a lot on my plate, but you learn how to clean it off slowly the best you can.”

She films each victim interview, and if the case ever makes it to trial, the video is shown in court. For a victim, telling a story about his or her sexual assault or abuse is a difficult task. The details they give are often too graphic for publication.

When it comes time to talk with the victim, Moore’s kind and nurturing nature provides a safe environment for that story to be told.

With many of the younger victims, Moore will draw pictures. With older victims, she discusses their successes and hopes and dreams for their future lives, attempting to disguise the real subject at hand.

While most of her interviews are with children, she also will conduct interviews with adults with disabilities or adults who just feel more comfortable speaking with a female.

Somehow, Moore just sitting next to you is empowering.

At a recent hearing involving a man who was convicted of incest and impregnating a young girl, the victim sat alone while her family spoke on her behalf. Moore left her seat near the prosecutors and went to the back of the courtroom to comfort the child.

“At first I felt bad and thought, ‘Should I have done that?’ because it made everyone look,” she said. “It was just private in the courtroom. I just didn’t want to leave her alone.”

The emotions Moore takes on through the interviews is overwhelming, but she said the state police has a great system to help her, including mandated counseling and an work environment where she can openly discuss the cases with her peers - confidentially, of course.

“I think if you don’t share with coworkers, especially in this type of job, you don’t get everything you need,” she said. “I don’t know everything, and have never said I know everything, and I will ask the younger ones.”

She meets with a WVSP victim’s advocate, Courtney Simmons, at least four times a year.

“If I get something that bothers me, I’ll call her and rant and rave and just spill my guts,” she said. “Then I always just say ‘OK. It’s yours. I’m done with it.’ She has told me, ‘I love your outlook about it, because you call me and tell me about it and dump it on me and say you’re good.’”

To stay grounded, Moore said she likes to do typical police duties from time to time, like helping with an investigation or making a simple road stop.

Outside of the courtroom, Moore has a private personal life, which she said could be partially due to what she has learned while investigating internet crimes and other graphic cases.

She grew up in a loving household in Charleston with a mother and father, who were married until her father’s death. Moore said she had a great childhood, but admitted she was “a little ornery.”

The mother of two children, Moore said she never thought she wanted to be a mother until she met her stepdaughter, who she also adores.

Moore has rules for her family and friends. No pictures of her are to be posted on social media, and if Moore is invited out at work, she does not wear her uniform or drive her vehicle to the restaurant. For vacations she avoids places popular for West Virginian tourists. But still, she can be recognized while out of state.

“I get recognized a lot,” she said. “My daughter and I were one time at Carowinds in Charlotte (North Carolina). We weren’t there 20 minutes and some guy was asking if I was a trooper in Huntington.”

Eligible for retirement in less than two years, Moore said she doesn’t know where her career will take her.

“I’ll do this for as long as I can - until they get rid of me or I can’t do it anymore,” she said. “I might retire and do something else, but I don’t know what yet. I’m the type of person that when I do something I do it really well. I put my all in it.”

___

Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com


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