New child sex abuse investigator begins work

Published 5:00 am Friday, July 5, 2024

By Terry L. Hapney, Jr.
The Ironton Tribune

Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless assigned Detective Kodi Pizelli of Ironton as the county’s new child sex abuse investigator who works with Prosecutor Brigham Anderson.
Pizelli’s appointment is made possible thanks to a two-year grant in the amount of $161,000 and another totaling $45,000.
Anderson said it is a need the county has had since the late 1990s.
“It will make a huge difference for child victims in our county,” Anderson said.
Pizelli, a law-enforcement officer of 16 years, started with the sheriff’s office in 2011. Prior to that he worked as an officer with the Coal Grove, Proctorville and South Point police departments.
“I’ve been all over the county,” Pizelli said.
Starting with the sheriff’s office as a jailer, Pizelli was promoted to road patrol, then to corporal before his appointment to this position.
Pizelli has served as one of two commanders of the county SWAT team. During the past several years he has trained through the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in interviewing crime victims, evidence collection, human trafficking and search warrant preparation.
Recently, Pizelli returned from Cincinnati after completing an advanced FBI course in testifying in court.
During his law-enforcement career, Pizelli’s experiences include on-the-scene investigations including murders, robberies, sexual assaults and neighbor disputes.
“My role is designated towards sexual assault crimes,” he said. “That’s every aspect of it—rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition, unlawful conduct with minors.”
Right from the beginning, Pizelli said Children Services is a “huge asset” when it comes to such investigations.
“They get the majority of these disclosures before we do,” he said. “Hope’s Place is phenomenal. They’re a huge asset to us getting things done.”
When he started in this role week before last, Pizelli shared his contact information with staff members at Children Services and Hope’s Place.
After a report is filed it comes to Pizelli. He goes through the forensic interview and observes it with a child. He also interviews suspects and collects DNA and other evidence.
“From the very beginning to when we go to court with the prosecution, I’ll be there every step of the way,” he said.
During investigative processes, Anderson said Pizelli will examine cell phones, other electronic devices and gather other types of evidence. He said such an investigation is initiated in various ways.
“A child can report they’ve been abused by an adult, a relative, a teacher, a friend,” Anderson said.
Anderson said victims can report in numerous ways— through Children’s Services, the Sheriff’s Office, the local police department, to a doctor, or to a teacher or administrator.
“Once it’s reported, it generates a report,” Anderson said. “That report will go to this investigator. He is then in charge of the entire investigation.”
A child victim participates in a Hope’s Place interview.
“We have forensic interviewing personnel who interview children for child sex abuse cases,” Anderson said. “He will interview and interrogate potential perpetrators. He will present the case to the prosecutor, the court, the Grand Jury.”
While that is an example of the process, “every case is different,” according to Anderson.
Pizelli said he has reached out to other law-enforcement agencies in the county.
“Of course they can investigate their own (cases), but they can bring me in if they wish,” he said.
Recently, a child sexual abuse report was filed with the Coal Grove Police Department. Police Chief Bill Murphy reached out to Pizelli and another detective.
“He had us come over,” Pizelli said. “I spoke with (the victim). I’m going to take it from there.”
Pizelli said he likes helping people.
“I’ve been all over this county,” he said. “Most people will tell you if they’ve had an interaction with me, they get along with me great. I like having that connection with people. It helps our office and community if people are friendly and they’re happy to see me.”
Pizelli said prior to this assignment Lawrence County had two detectives in the Sheriff’s Office. In 2023, there were more than 5,000 calls for services. Those two detectives review all of those.
“Those two do a great job with that but Mr. Anderson said the prosecutor’s office saw 61 sexual assault cases last year, up from 27 the year before,” Pizelli said. “As time goes on, you see more and more and more of it. It needs focused on. We’re all excited about this grant and this opportunity.”
As the link among multiple organizations, Pizelli said the most important aspect of this new position is the team effort nature of the work.
“Sheriff Lawless’ office, Mr. Anderson’s office, Children Services and Hope’s Place—those entities, together, are going to do great things,” Pizelli said.

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