Former foster child says Greensburg ‘mom’ had sex with him more than 500 times
A former foster child testified Thursday that he anticipated living in a Greensburg therapeutic foster home would mean he would have someone to confide in and people he could trust.
“I thought I’d get talked to more,” the man, now 24, told a judge during a preliminary hearing. “I thought it would be good, helpful, to have someone to talk. To me, it meant I felt like I was going to be treated like I was actually there.”
Instead, his former foster mother had sex with him more than 500 times, he said on cross-examination.
“There was times when it was not happening at all and she wanted to go back to play the mother role, as she would call it, and there was times it was daily or every other day,” he said.
District Judge James Albert ordered that Joelle Barozzini, 46, stand trial on rape, sexual assault and related allegations in connection with the alleged abuse that police said began in 2009, when the victim was 16, and lasted until 2013. She remains free on bond.
Several times during her preliminary hearing, Barozzini closed her eyes and shook her head. About 10 supporters accompanied her in the courtroom.
Police said Barozzini worked for Pressley Ridge at the time and was placed on administrative leave when the allegations surfaced through a ChildLine report in November 2016. A spokesman for the nonprofit has told the Tribune-Review the agency took “appropriate employment action.”
A state trooper made the ChildLine report after a conversation with the alleged victim.
The man detailed an initial encounter in the fall of 2009 when he alleged that he and Barozzini had sex in her bedroom with the door open while other family members were in the house.
“She grabbed me by the hand and pulled me into her room,” he testified. “I was just really scared, basically, that somebody was going to see.”
Later, he tried to tell a family member and a friend about the abuse, but they didn’t believe him, he testified. He was afraid to be moved into another negative foster situation, he said.
“I kind of froze, I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I was concerned that I would get basically thrown away again, just told to go somewhere else.”
He said Barozzini had sex with him in several rooms of her home and at hotels and referred to their relationship as that of boyfriend-girlfriend. Barozzini allegedly made a fictitious Facebook profile of the boy’s purported girlfriend, texted him naked photographs of herself and was upset when he moved out in 2013, according to testimony.
“I was honestly too nervous to say no,” he testified under cross-examination. “Every single time, just about, would be against my will.”
No evidence was presented that Barozzini forced him to do anything, attorney Bill McCabe argued in asking the rape charge be dismissed.
“She never said anything at all during these sexual interactions, not conceding that any of this happened,” he said. “She never said one thing about whether or not his consent or lack of consent would jeopardize his placement.”
Assistant District Attorney Jim Lazar argued that rather than physical force, Barozzini used “psychological coercion” on a teenaged boy.
Those circumstances “would have clearly had him feel absolutely helpless to reject or stand up to or put a stop to or get away from Ms. Barozzini’s advances, and that continued for years,” Lazar said. “At some point, when you have nowhere to go … you become sort of accustomed to the circumstances that you’re in and you attempt to make the best of them, as I assume (the alleged victim) had to do.”
Police continue to investigate allegations that employees at Greene County Children & Youth Services and Pressley Ridge deemed a caseworker’s 2012 suspicions about sexual assault at Barozzini’s home to be “gossip.” That caseworker was reprimanded and removed from the case. No report was made to ChildLine, and foster children continued to be placed in Barozzini’s care, according to court documents filed by Greensburg Detective John Swank.
The former director of the Greene County agency resigned in May from a similar position she held at Washington County Children and Youth Services after the charges were filed against Barozzini. Pressley Ridge officials have said they are cooperating with police.