By Calvin Palmer
A former head chef and chief groundskeeper at the Oklahoma governor’s mansion are under investigation following allegations that they raped three female prison inmates assigned to work on the grounds.
Russell Humphries, the former executive chef at the mansion, and Anthony Bobelu, the former groundskeeper supervisor, were fired by the Department of Central Services in September for violating departmental policies.
Neither man has been charged but the state Department of Corrections believes they committed sexual battery, forcible sodomy and rape against the Hillside Community Corrections Center inmates, Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said today.
The department has turned its findings over to the Oklahoma County District Attorney, David Prater, and an investigation is ongoing.
The women, two of whom have since been released from prison, say the assaults happened between March 2008 and January 2009. The investigation by the Department of Corrections began on June 1, after one woman came forward following her release, Massie said.
The women said the alleged attacks occurred in a storage building outside the perimeter of the security fence that surrounds the mansion’s 14-acre grounds, Massie said. He did not say if the women allege they were assaulted once or multiple times.
The attorney for one of the women, Janet Roloff, said her client endured a “violent, bloody rape” that left her with emotional and physical scars.
Roloff dismissed the notion that any sex between her client and the state workers was consensual.
“My client was dragged down, held down by one and raped by another. That doesn’t sound very consensual, does it?” she said.
Roloff said her client was afraid to report she was attacked until after her release for fear of retribution. She said her client came forward to try to persuade prison officials to stop sending female inmates to the governor’s mansion.
The allegations have raised questions about security at the mansion and oversight of the horticulture program, which was suspended after the allegations surfaced but has since resumed.
Paul Sund, a spokesman for Gov Brad Henry, said the Department of Public Safety officials who protect the governor and his family do not believe security at the mansion was ever breached.
“We have full confidence in the DPS security detail. We’re not the security experts, they are,” Sund said. Aside from Henry, first lady Kim Henry and two of their three daughters live in the mansion.
The 11 female inmates assigned to maintain the flower beds and shrubs at the mansion are considered low security and escape risks.
Prison officials train Department of Central Services workers on how to properly supervise the inmates and that no changes are planned in the program.
[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]