Oklahoma child abuse case involves Wiccans

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MEEDER, Okla. — Police rescued an emaciated 15-year-old male, “JJ,” from an Oklahoma farm on July 12. It appears that the boy’s father and stepmother, who have been charged with a number of counts of abuse and neglect, are Pagan.

Prosecutors have made multiple allegations of abuse and neglect. JJ weighed just 80 pounds, and had a scalp wound and several broken bones. Despite a reported well-stocked refrigerator and pantry, JJ allegedly had to forage for his own food . His caretakers only allowed him inside the farmhouse to use the bathroom, according to reports. The boy was forced to sleep in the barn with the farm animals.

Prosecutors also allege that, when doctors examined JJ, they found twigs in his stomach, and shotgun pellets in his leg.

JJ lived on the farm with his father, Jimmy L. Jones Sr., 34, and stepmother, Amy A. Jones, 46, as well as his four-year old half-sister and two stepbrothers, Jonathan Plank, 20, and Tyler Adkins, 24. Reports say that all five appeared healthy and well-fed, as did the farm animals.

When news broke, some regional papers reported on how the story was playing out on social media.

Several local people found Amy Jones’ Facebook profile. According to press reports, she posted at the top of her Facebook page, “Always believe in majik. I am proud to be a Wiccan.” Some amount of vitriol ensued in comments to her posts.

This reporter was unable to locate Amy Jones’ Facebook profile, but did locate Jimmie Jones’. It shows that he has liked 30-plus Pagan Facebook pages.

 U.S. Route 62 in Meeker, Oklahoma

Police have placed JJ and his half-sister in protective custody. At press time, JJ has been in the hospital for over a month. Assistant District Attorney Adam Panter reported, “Doctors stated that he was likely going to die within a week if he had not been found.”

Panter has charged the four adults with varying counts of child abuse and neglect.

Background

A passerby saw JJ in the field outside the home, eating berries; he appeared emaciated. The passerby notified authorities of suspected child abuse. A neighbor, Zach Guy, reported that he had seen JJ but thought he was just a scrawny eight-year-old.

A female neighbor told a reporter for the Oklahoman that she had known the Jones family for over 20 years, but did not describe them as friends. “Neighbor X” did not give her name. She said that Amy Jones still lived in the house in which she had grown up, and made her living breeding, raising, and selling Arabian horses.

Neighbor X estimated that Amy Jones currently had 15 to 20 Arabian horses on the property. She described the Jones home as “gorgeous.”

Neighbor X also reported that about 10 years ago Jimmy and Amy Jones had married. Amy Jones had two sons, Adkins and Plank, by previous marriages, while JJ is Jimmie Jones’ son. The four-year-old girl is the couple’s child. Neighbor X could not fathom the charges of abuse; her perception was that they spoiled their children.

About four years ago, Neighbor X overheard the Joneses talking about having problems with JJ. Neighbor X reported that she had last seen JJ two years ago. At that time, he appeared healthy and normal. Her last sighting of the boy is consistent with other factors. Two years ago, the parents pulled JJ out of school and began to home-school him. Prosecutors allege JJ was not allowed to leave the Jones’ farm since he began home school.

Neighbor X reported that most people in Meeker did not know the Jones family, as they kept to themselves. Meeker, population 1,145, forms part of the Oklahoma metropolitan area.

Local papers reported that the father worked as a prison guard from November, 2017 to July 11, 2018, one day prior to JJ’s rescue.

Analysis of media coverage

The Wild Hunt found 27 online news stories on line about this case. Of those articles only two mentioned Wicca.

The first article quoted Assistant District Attorney Panter denying that Wicca had anything to do with this case. That article quoted Wiccan high priestess Emmah Eastwind. The paper devoted four paragraphs to her response. Eastwind stressed the common Wiccan belief that all magical actions return to the magician threefold.

The second article reported that “Wicca is a religion associated with pagan beliefs, magic, nature worship and witchcraft. Prosecutors at this point don’t believe the religion played a part in the abuse.”

Fox News Oklahoma and Fox News national also reported on this story. Neither story mentioned anything about Wicca.

Those 27 stories contained 10,770 words, only 77 of which — 0.71 percent — expressed negative attitudes towards Wicca. In contrast 249 words, or 2.3 percent, of all words in these stories expressed neutral or positive attitudes towards Wicca.

Local law enforcement denied any links between this case and Wiccan beliefs. The local media of a small town in the Bible Belt discussed Wicca in a respectful and honest way. They downplayed prejudice and fear in an emotionally charged case.

Current status of the case

This case has already resulted in calls to revise Oklahoma’s home-schooling policy. Stacy McNeiland of the Care Center has charged that Oklahoma fails to provide any monitoring of home-schooling. Advocates with the Coalition of Responsible Home Education alleged that Oklahoma has had 13 other known cases of serious or fatal child abuse among home-schooled children.

District Attorney Panter said that JJ was recovering but would remain hospitalized for a few more weeks.

Jimmy Jones is charged with felony child neglect and child abuse by injury. Amy Jones is charged with enabling child abuse and permitting the willful abuse of a child. JJ’s two stepbrothers, Jonathan Plank and Tyler Adkins, are charged with child neglect.

All four adults are out on bond. Preliminary hearings are scheduled for October.