Female employees accused of assaulting Westmoreland inmates
By Jewels Phraner
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 11:32 a.m.
Updated: Friday, March 29, 2013
Two former Westmoreland County Prison employees are facing charges of sexually assaulting two inmates.
County detectives charged the two women Tuesday with institutional sexual assault in unrelated incidents.
Former corrections officer Melissa Ann Boggs, 43, of Latrobe and former nurse practitioner Belinda Lee Sapanara, 38, of Donegal Borough were released on $10,000 bond each set by Hempfield District Judge Mark Mansour.
Detectives allege that Boggs, a part-time employee, began a relationship in April 2011 with a 28-year-old inmate from Acme who was serving a 23-month sentence after his parole was revoked in a 2008 case for attempted theft and simple assault.
The inmate told detectives the couple would exchange letters, sending them to family members to be forwarded, and spent nights talking while he worked, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Detective James Williams.
The inmate alleged that in June, Boggs came to his cell and told his cellmate to put on headphones and face the wall so Boggs could have sex with the inmate in his bunk, police allege.
The Tribune-Review does not identify alleged victims in sexual assaults.
The county will not tolerate employees “in responsible positions” preying upon their charges, and such allegations will be investigated and prosecuted, Commissioner Charles Anderson said.
“We're forever vigilant about this,” he said.
Prison Warden John Walton said officials began an internal investigation last year after hearing rumors about alleged inappropriate behavior involving Boggs.
During the initial investigation in September 2011, Boggs resigned from her position, which she had held for one year.
Walton said that investigation failed to uncover wrongdoing, but the Acme inmate later filed a formal complaint against Boggs.
The case was turned over to county detectives in May. Boggs admitted to sexual activity with the inmate but denied having intercourse with him, the affidavit said.
Detectives then learned of an alleged inappropriate relationship between Sapanara, a nurse practitioner working at the prison through Pittsburgh-based Wexford Health Sources Inc., and a 29-year-old inmate from Greensburg serving a sentence of up to 23 months for theft, according to the affidavit and court records.
At a July disciplinary hearing, the man told a prison hearing board that Sapanara was forcing him to have sex with her.
Detectives reviewed 314 phone calls between the inmate and Sapanara, as well as numerous letters, the affidavit said. Police allege there was sexual activity between Sapanara and the inmate on June 1 and June 11 in the nurse's office at the prison.
Conversations between the two “indicate this was a consensual arrangement,” Williams wrote.
Sapanara allegedly admitted she sent more than $750 to the inmate in money orders and paid about $2,000 toward his fines and court costs, police said.
Wexford spokeswoman Wendelyn Pekich said Sapanara was fired when the company learned of the allegations of inappropriate behavior. She declined further comment.
Wexford began providing health care in the prison in May and is contracted through April 2017.
In 1993, Sapanara pleaded guilty to terroristic threats and was sentenced to two years' probation.
Sheriff Jonathan Held, who chairs the county prison board, said Walton has been directed to review and revise the prison employees' policy manual, particularly sections pertaining to crimes.
“(Prison) supervisors should probably be making sure that the policies are being adhered to,” Held said.
A preliminary hearing will be held Nov. 16 for Boggs before Mansour. He will conduct a preliminary hearing for Sapanara on Dec. 14.
Staff writer Rich Cholodofsky contributed to this report. Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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