State Water Development Authority Director Chris Jarrett had his nephew, a West Virginia State Police officer, send troopers to conduct a search of an Elkview home as part of a custody battle over Jarrett’s 16-year-old granddaughter, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.
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The lawsuit asserts that Jarrett’s nephew, Sgt. J.D. Perry, used the sex offender verification requirements as a “‘Trojan horse’ to get into the [Carpenters’] residence in order to search for evidence sought by Jarrett.”
Amid the investigation, Jarrett allowed a trooper to question his granddaughter at the state water agency’s headquarters building in Charleston, said John Bryan, the Carpenters’ lawyer. The officer searched the girl’s cell phone for pictures of her parents using drugs, according to a water agency employee who witnessed the search.
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The Carpenters’ lawsuit alleges that Jarrett, with the assistance of his nephew who was stationed at the State Police’s Quincy detachment in 2014, sent troopers to the Carpenters’ home to gather information to use against them in Kanawha County Family Court.
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The Carpenters’ lawyer said the lawsuit is the first of its kind in West Virginia to address allegations of troopers using the sex offender verification process to conduct an illegal search.
“I think it’s a pattern or practice that they’ve probably been engaging in for a while and nobody’s called them out on it,” said Bryan, who works from an office in Monroe County.
Bryan said prosecutors across the state have previously told him about troopers using the sex offender registration verification process to conduct warrantless searches.
“Then when I heard about it in this case I looked into it and, when I looked up the actual police reports where these state troopers wrote what their conduct was, I was surprised to see it in black and white,” Bryan said.
Bryan said the Carpenters’ case is similar to a lawsuit he filed that prompted troopers to be re-trained on “no-knock” search warrants.
In that case, a 72-year-old Doddridge County man ended up dying after a State Police SWAT team conducted a no-knock entry into his home. In December, the State Police’s insurance company agreed to pay $85,000 and retrain troopers about no-knock search warrants. A search warrant must be obtained before police are allowed to enter without first identifying themselves.