MURFREESBORO — District Attorney General Jennings Jones and Child Advocacy Center Director Sharon DeBoer presented the 2023 Hometown Heroes Awards at the 8th Annual Hometown Heroes Walk for Children on Friday morning to six community leaders who have dedicated their careers to making our community a better place for children.
“Some of the very best people in Rutherford County serve on the Child Protective Investigative Team, the Child Protective Investigative Management Team, and the Child Advocacy Center Board of Directors,” De Boer stated. “Each of the Hometown Heroes are selfless advocates for child abuse victims.”
The awards were presented during the annual Child Abuse Prevention Month event. The 2023 award winners were: Beth Ussery, Paul Mongold, Jennifer Head, Jessica Moore, Britt Reed, and Anahi Castillo.
Beth Ussery has an undergraduate degree from MTSU and earned her Master’s degree in Health and Fitness from the University of Memphis. She is a former PE teacher at St. Rose and is heavily involved in supporting the parish and the school. She volunteers her time at Special Kids, Discovery Center, MTSU Anne Campbell Early Learning Center, Ascension St. Thomas, Charity Circle, and she helped open Sports*Com. She has a positive attitude, kind heart, genuinely cares about people, and has a passion for making our community a better place for children.
Ussery served as the Charity Circle representative to the Child Advocacy Center Board of Directors. She has never met a stranger and she is not afraid to seek help for worthy causes. The Child Advocacy Center facility was in a state of disrepair and they needed to move. It is expensive to move and they did not have funding in their budget to pay for all the expenses. Ussery asked the community to support them, and they did. The new offices needed to be painted and she secured a donation from Hoover Paint. She contacted Larry Hardison from Hardison Moving Company and they moved the Center for free. They moved from 4,000 square feet building to 1,800 square foot office and she approached A+ Storage to give them two storage units. She saved the Child Advocacy Center thousands of dollars that they did not have.
Her greatest attribute is that she has a servant’s heart. It manifests itself daily in her compassion for everyone she comes in contact with along life’s journey. Even with everything she does for our community, she still has time to be a wonderful wife to her husband Mike and an outstanding mother to her three children, Marshall, Patrick, and Anne Elizabeth.
Paul Mongold received his Bachelor of Science degree from MTSU in 1997. He was hired as a police officer at the Murfreesboro Police Department in February 1998. In July of 2001 he became a Field Training Officer. He became a detective in the Criminal Investigations Division on October 2004. He was promoted to Sergeant in 2013 and joined the Special Victims Unit.
There was a Kindergarten boy who had been injured. Children’s injuries heal quickly and this boy had bruises that were starting to fade. Law enforcement needed photographs of the injuries before they were gone. The Child Advocacy Center director called Chief Chrisman and asked if he had an officer who could photograph the injuries. The last thing that Chrisman said as he highly recommended Mongold was, “He is not only a good officer, he is a good man.” Chief Chrisman was right. This Hometown Hero is a good man and he is a “kid person.” He has a natural ability to make children feel comfortable and at ease. The Child Protective Investigative Team worked a case where a child heard his dad murder his mom. Mongold sat on the floor and played with play dough with the child before he was interviewed to help him feel more comfortable.
Mongold is dedicated and he goes above and beyond the call of duty. When a detective’s help is needed for an emergency case, he either volunteers to come himself or sends one of his detectives. He has dropped everything he was doing on a Friday night and come in and worked a case. He conducts thorough investigations, so the District Attorney’s Office has everything they need to aggressively prosecute cases. He even wades through creeks looking for evidence. He believes in the multi-disciplinary team concept and he is well respected by the Child Protective Investigative Team.
Jennifer Head graduated from MTSU in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She began her career as a student intern at Rutherford County Department of Children’s Services. After graduation, she was hired as a Child Protective Services Investigator in Davidson County. She began to climb up through the ranks and became an investigator with the Special Investigations Unit. In her first year as the Lead Investigator with Rutherford County DCS, she met with all the detectives in the four law enforcement jurisdictions to identify ways to strengthen the working relationships between DCS and the CPIT Team partners. She is currently the CPIT Team Leader. She is a member of the Child Protective Investigative Team, Child Fatality Review, and the Rutherford County Coalition Against Child Abuse. She works every day with children effected by severe abuse and neglect, and advocates for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. She has worked diligently with End Slavery to assist victims of human trafficking.
Head has a servant’s heart and she strives to build a team of investigators that work tirelessly to ensure the safety of Rutherford County children and families. She accepts nothing but the best outcomes for children and holds herself and her team to the highest standards. She is the go-to supervisor in the Rutherford County office and is knowledgeable about DCS policy. Under her leadership hundreds of cases have been worked, perpetrators have been substantiated, arrested, and convicted. She takes pride in her work, her team, and her office, and is always striving to be the best.
Head has shown through words and actions the commitment she has to Tennessee’s most marginalized populations and continues to be a beacon of light in the fight against child abuse and neglect. The Department of Children’s Services is proud to have her as a leader in their organization.
Jessica Moore, as described by District Attorney Hugh Ammerman, is a powerhouse. “However rare it may be, lightning does occasionally strike the same place twice. In 2016, a battle with cancer forced another recipient of the Hometown Heroes Award, the late Nancy Nelson, to leave her position as a Forensic Investigator in the child abuse division of the DA’s Office. Nancy’s departure left behind what seemed to be impossibly large shoes to fill. When General Jennings Jones hired Jessica Moore, it didn’t take long to appreciate that, against all odds, there was another champion in the fight against child abuse for whom Nancy’s shoes were a perfect fit.”
Moore works like a machine. When she’s not tracking down witnesses she’s talking to victim’s families, communicating with lawyers to make sure they have what they need, pouring through evidence – meticulously reviewing reports and recordings, typing up indictments, scheduling meetings, bringing things to the courthouse, helping the District Attorneys pick a jury, furiously taking notes from a victim’s trial testimony or any of a thousand other tasks that she carries out with an unbeatable combination of competence and enthusiasm. When she’s not doing those things, she’s listening to jail calls. No communications between inmates charged with child abuse and the outside world are safe from her penetrating gaze. She cannot be intimidated or rattled.
Ammerman continued, “This Hometown Hero’s professionalism makes Sharon Reddick and me look like amateurs. She almost always knows more about our cases than we do. She always treats the public the DA’s Office serves with patience, respect, and compassion. She a is brilliant, punctual, dignified, dedicated, and efficient.”
This Hometown Hero is one of Hugh Ammerman’s favorite people on this Earth. “Sometimes the horrific nature of the crimes the DA’s Office addresses mixes with the pressure of the responsibility to pursue justice on behalf of criminally abused children in ways that can feel heavy. But when you have someone like this Hometown Hero in your corner, you feel like you can take on the world – and win.”
According to Ammerman, “While Sharon Reddick and I might be the more publicly facing figures involved in the prosecution of child abuse in Rutherford County, Jessica Moore is the beating heart of our entire operation. We shepherd our cases through the criminal justice system, and she shepherds us through all that we need to do outside of the courtroom to get the job done. She is the steady rock that supports everything we do. Make no mistake – this Hometown Hero is the core power (our own most fortunate bolt of lightning) that makes every successful prosecution of child abuse in our community possible.”
Britt Reed graduated from MTSU with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration in 1993 and a Master of Criminal Justice in 2017. He attended Northwestern University Center for Public Safety School of Staff and Command in 2012 and the FBI LEEDA Leadership Trilogy in 2018. He has received specialized law enforcement training in Crimes Against Children, Domestic Violence, Law Enforcement Management and Administration, and a wide spectrum of other specialized trainings. He was hired as a Patrol Deputy in the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office in 1995, became a Family Crimes Detective in 1999, and a Detective Sergeant in 2003. He rose up through the ranks to Deputy Chief in 2022.
When the Child Advocacy Center first opened in 2000, this law enforcement supervisor was a child abuse detective. He genuinely cares about child victims and families. He builds rapport quickly with children, gains their trust, and his genuine manner puts children at ease. Reed has excellent working relationships with the other members of the Child Protective Investigative Team. Child sexual abuse cases are some of the most difficult cases to prosecute. Reed conducted thorough investigations that gave the District Attorney’s Office everything they needed for a successful prosecution. Reed understands the multi-disciplinary response to child abuse and communicates that information to the employees he supervises and the community. He clearly values the importance of each agency’s role in the process.
As an administrator, Reed has prioritized crimes against children. He has been involved in promoting some of the best and the brightest detectives to work child abuse cases. He serves on the Child Protective Investigative Management Team with the District Attorney General, Police Chiefs, Department of Children’s Services supervisors, Volunteer Behavioral Health supervisor, and the Child Advocacy Center Director. This dedicated group of public servants works to improve the systemic response to child abuse victims. The Child Protective Investigative Management Team toured Family Justice Center in the state and Reed sent one of his best sergeants on the tour to learn more information and report back to him.
Reed serves as an active member of the Child Advocacy Center Board of Directors. He provides valuable input into board meetings because he has worked child abuse cases. He has met with city and county leaders and clearly articulates how the Child Protective Investigative Team responds to child abuse cases and how valuable the team approach is to our community. This Hometown Hero is one of the very best law enforcement supervisors in the state.
Anahi Castillo attended Middle Tennessee State University where she was awarded the Tennessee Hope Scholarship from 2014-2018 and the MTSU Outstanding Student in Child Development and Family Studies in 2018. She completed her student internships at the Domestic Violence Program and the Child Advocacy Center. She graduated in 2018 from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelors of Science in Family and Consumer Studies and a minor in Social Welfare. She began her career at the Child Advocacy Center in September of 2018 as the Bilingual Family Services Coordinator. She attended the National Children’s Advocacy Center Forensic Interviewer Training in Huntsville, Alabama in June of 2020 and the Corner House Child Sexual Abuse Forensic Interviewer Training in Minneapolis, Minnesota in July and August of 2022. She continues to show her dedication to MTSU and is often invited to speak on panels and to classes. Her bilingual student internships are coveted by social work and Child Development and Family Studies students.
When Latino families walk through the front door of the Child Advocacy Center Castillo greets them in Spanish, you immediately see relief spread across their faces. Many of the Latino families are afraid when they come to the Child Advocacy Center because of the language barrier. She immediately calms their fears and assures them that the Child Protective Investigative Team is here to help them. She helps bridge the communication gap between Latino families and the Child Protective Investigative Team by providing translation services. Her heart lies with Latino families, and she is available to go on scene and respond with Department of Children’s Services and law enforcement and provide crisis intervention and translation services whenever she is needed.
Ahahi Castillo has a heart of gold and deeply cares about the children and families that she serves. She has made a huge impact on so many child victims and their families. Her kindness to families in the most difficult season of their lives will never be forgotten. This Hometown Hero is moving and pursuing her Masters’ degree in Family and Human Development. Friday, April 28, was her last day at the Child Advocacy Center and she will be truly missed by the Child Advocacy Center, Child Protective Investigative Team, and the children and families she has served.
“All of these Hometown Heroes have never desired any recognition for their accomplishments because it has never been about them,” concluded De Boer, “It has always been about the children.”