Police agencies, prosecutor decline abuse allegations against Sequim couple
An investigation into a Sequim couple, including an elementary school administrator, over alleged abuse of foster children resulted in no charges in Clallam and Whatcom counties, law enforcement agencies report.
Allegations arose in the summer of 2020 of abuse in the homes of Francis and Shelley Jefferson toward their three unnamed foster children, the Sequim Police Department reported.
Sequim Police deputy chief Mike Hill said the Clallam County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file criminal charges after a thorough review of reported incidents that Shelley Jefferson neglected and abused juveniles in her care.
Det. Sgt. Richard Hart with the Lummi Nation Police Department said they’ve closed their case. He said that an allegation in their jurisdiction was unfounded and other alleged incidents occurred in Sequim.
Interviews took place in the two jurisdictions, Hill said, because the Jeffersons maintained homes in Sequim and on Lummi Nation in Whatcom County.
Originally, abuse allegations of three juvenile brothers — two were age 12, one age 15 — were reported to Lummi Nation Police on Aug. 7, 2020, Sequim Police report.
The brothers were placed in the Jeffersons’ care by Child Protective Services (CPS) in late 2019 and later placed into a family member’s care after the allegations were reported, Hill said.
Shelley Jefferson, the assistant principal at Helen Haller Elementary, was also placed on leave as protocol during any investigation and remains on leave, Sequim School District officials report.
She notified former superintendent Dr. Rob Clark of the allegations on Aug. 11, 2020. The 2020-2021 academic year would have been her third school year in Sequim.
Dr. Jane Pryne, interim Sequim Schools superintendent, said the district has remained in communication with the Sequim Police Department during Sequim Police Department’s investigation, and recently received approval to proceed with its own investigation.
She said the district “is not able to share information with the public regarding the status of Ms. Jefferson’s employment.”
Jefferson earns a salary of about $9,625 per month, school district officials previously confirmed.
When asked for comment, Shelley Jefferson said she had no comment at this time.
Interviews were done by Sequim Police, Lummi Nation Police and a Child Protective Services social worker with the family over allegations of severe discipline, mistreatment, rough-housing that escalated, and assault, Hill said.
Hill reported that Sequim Police received Lummi Nation Police’s final report on Jan. 26, and conducted additional investigation into two specific incidents that may have occurred in Sequim.
Officers interviewed Shelley Jefferson and two witnesses in her residence and determined those incidents occurred on the Lummi Nation, Hill said.
Everyone interviewed denied any abuse or neglect occurred in interviews, Hill said.
Sequim Police previously confirmed Shelley Jefferson was the legal foster parent for the three boys and she and Francis had one biological child and the three foster children enrolled in Sequim School District last school year.
Sequim Police in early February requested the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s office review the case, including multiple police reports, witness statements, CPS records, photographs and interviews, Hill said.
Two deputy prosecuting attorneys and Clallam County prosecutor Mark Nichols determined the allegations did not rise to the level of criminal activity within Clallam County or the City of Sequim, Hill said.
Records requests through the City of Sequim were denied because juveniles were involved and because no criminal offense was committed, under Multiple Revised Codes of Washington (RCW).
Nancy Gutierrez, interim director of communications for Washington’s Department of Children, Youth and Families, had no comment on an investigation into the allegations and referred the Gazette to its Frequently Asked Questions page at dcyf.wa.gov/sites/default/files/pubs/LIC_0008.pdf.
It states that if their investigation is founded, abuse or neglect more likely occurred; if unfounded, then abuse or neglect did not occur or there was not enough information to determine if it occurred.
The website states “Law enforcement has a different burden of proof than CPS. This means one can have a founded finding for abuse even if law enforcement does not file criminal charges.”
Editor’s note: Reporter Matthew Nash has family employed by and enrolled in Sequim School District.