Government, Latest News, Monongalia County

Former MPD detective selected as coordinator for sexual assault kit testing initiative

MORGANTOWN — As it does every year, the Monongalia County Commission opened its first meeting of 2024 with a passing of the gavel. 

Sean Sikora will serve as the body’s president this year.  

Tom Bloom, who served as president in 2023, is up for reelection in November. Bloom confirmed Wednesday he will seek a third six-year term. 

Once down to business, the commission heard from Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney Gabrielle Mucciola, who’s welcoming two new members to her office, including a 21-year officer with the Morgantown Police Department.  

In the last 14 years as a detective with the MPD, Larry Hasley developed a reputation statewide as a leader in the investigation of sex crimes. 

Now he’s putting that expertise to work for the state. 

Mucciola announced Wednesday that Hasley will be working out of her office as a statewide coordinator for the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, a federal program aimed at alleviating/preventing a backlog of unsubmitted sexual assault kits. 

Hasley has been involved with those efforts at the state level since the inception of both the SAKI Multidisciplinary Work Group, in 2017, and the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) program.   

Hasley’s position will be fully grant funded through SAKI. 

“This is a unique position and it’s exciting for Monongalia County,” Mucciola told the commission. “Monongalia County was at the forefront of that project here in West Virginia. We were the second county in the state to begin to collect untested kits and send them to Marshal for testing. Larry Hasley was part of that initiative back when it started.”     

Among his efforts with the MPD, Hasley helped educate officers statewide on the investigation of sex crimes. He was also a driving force behind the Judy King Soft Interview Room. The first of its kind in the state when the MPD opened it in 2017, the room gives victims of traumatic crime a comfortable space in which to work with officers. 

Additionally, the commission approved the hiring of Samantha Elkins as an assistant prosecuting attorney to fill the office’s vacant role handling abuse and neglect cases. 

Sadly, she’s going to be busy. 

In 2000, Monongalia County had 13 child neglect and abuse cases. By 2018, the number had jumped to 167. 

It was this dramatic uptick in cases that led former Prosecutor Perri DeChristopher to request and receive funding for an additional part-time prosecutor in 2019. 

That position has since become full time and then some. 

The county closed out 2023 with 227 abuse and neglect petitions filed. 

“I say that to you as a primer for what’s ahead and to also let you appreciate the task ahead for Ms. Elkins. “We’re grateful she has come,” Mucciola said. 

Elkins has previous experience as an assistant prosecutor in both Harrison and Barbour counties. 

Lastly, the county received a check for $1,019,972.50 as part of the state’s opioid settlement money. 

These funds will be administered locally under the direction of the commission. 

County Administrator Rennetta McClure said the county would put a process in place to request funding but suggested those interested submit formal requests to the commission office instead of trying to go through individual commissioners. 

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