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Former North Belle Vernon councilwoman, coach held on sex assault charge

| Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010

A 15-year-old girl testified Wednesday she was afraid to tell anyone that her softball coach sexually assaulted her for two years because the woman, a former North Belle Vernon councilwoman, repeatedly threatened her.

"She told me, "I can make your life a living hell if you tell anyone what happened,'" the victim calmly told West Newton District Judge Charles M. Christner Jr. during a preliminary hearing.

"I was being manipulated," she said.

Christner ordered Heather M. Prinkey, 36, of 513 Henry St. to stand trial on multiple charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and single counts of statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

The girl met Prinkey when she coached the Belle Vernon Bombshells softball team and then the girl became "best friends" with Prinkey's daughter, who was the same age in 2007.

She testified Heather Prinkey and she first became intimate during a sleepover in October 2007. The girl, who was 12 at the time, said she had a stomachache during a Halloween party Prinkey's daughter was hosting. She climbed into Heather Prinkey's lap and Prinkey kissed her on the mouth, she said.

During the more than two years that followed, she said, the alleged assaults went from kissing and groping to oral sex and experimenting with sexual devices. The girl described a shopping trip to Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield, where Prinkey purchased a sex toy.

The girl claimed that the episodes went on "for hours."

The girl often stayed overnight at Prinkey's home because her parents were in the process of divorcing, she said.

The girl said she often went to sleep with Prinkey's daughter, and Heather Prinkey would come upstairs to the bedroom, awaken her and take her down to the living room. Occasionally, the victim said, Prinkey would share wine coolers with the girls.

The alleged victim said she stopped going to Prinkey's house and ended her friendship with Prinkey's daughter in September.

The girl claimed that Prinkey's daughter was jealous of her.

"She didn't like that her mother was giving me more attention than her and we became enemies," the girl said. "She noticed when Heather Prinkey would hold my hand in the car."

Westmoreland County Detective Robert Weaver said the girl's mother called police in May 2008 when she discovered sexual photographs of Prinkey on the girl's cell phone.

Prinkey claimed the sexy photographs were meant for a boyfriend and erroneously sent to the girl, Weaver said.

"When I talked to (the girl), she said they were not involved in a relationship. So there was nothing I could do," Weaver said.

More than a year later, the mother again telephoned Weaver because her daughter admitted Prinkey had assaulted her, Weaver testified.

On July 14, Weaver and Detective Richard Kranitz interviewed Prinkey in her home, and she admitted to a sexual relationship with the girl.

"Heather told us that it wasn't premeditated ... it just happened," Weaver said.

He said Prinkey initially said she engaged in sexual activity with the girl "around 50 times."

"Heather said she had never been involved with another female and that she and (the alleged victim) were experimenting," Weaver said.

Defense attorney Noah Geary asked the girl why she came forward this summer.

"I realized Heather was trying to control my life and threatening my boyfriend. She would say rude things like I don't need him and that he's a pig," the girl replied.

Assistant District Attorney Jackie Knupp credited the victim's mother for her diligence in helping police.

"This should serve as a reminder to all parents to keep track of who is in your child's life," Knupp said.

Knupp said if the mother, who accompanied her daughter to court, had not discovered the photographs Prinkey sent to the girl's cell phone, no one may have uncovered the relationship.

"Those text messages corroborate the victim's statements as well as the defendant's admissions," Knupp said.

Prinkey, a 1992 Belle Vernon Area High School graduate, resigned her position on council a week before detectives filed the charges.

Prinkey, who is free on a $250,000 bond, declined comment as she left Christner's office.

Valley Independent writer Jeff Pikulsky contributed to this story.

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