UPDATE, DEC. 12, 2:15 P.M.: A Fulton County Grand Jury has returned an eleven count indictment against a former special needs teacher for allegedly abusing children in her care. 34-year-old Melanie Pickens is charged with Cruelty to Children and False Imprisonment in connection with the physical abuse of five Hopewell Middle School students.
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office is seeking an indictment against a former Hopewell Middle School special needs teacher for allegedly abusing children.
Melanie Pickens faces a total of 11 counts on charges of cruelty to children and false imprisonment in connection with the physical abuse of five Hopewell Middle School students, the District Attorney's Office said today, Dec. 12.
The alleged abuse occurred between 2004-2007 at the Fulton County middle school in Alpharetta, a release from the DA's office said. According to the investigation, the victims, who were all non-verbal, were either pushed, shoved into lockers and/or left in isolation for hours on end.
The alleged abuse of one student was discovered in 2007 by school officials and then reported to the Department of Family and Children Services. The case was initially handled as a human resource matter in the Fulton County Schools System centered around the abuse of that child. A civil suit involving that victim ensued years later and led to the discovery of four other potential victims. The case was eventually brought to the attention of law enforcement and a criminal investigation was launched.
The case was forwarded to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in May 2012. Pickens resigned her position in 2007.
The case was being presented to the Fulton County Grand Jury by the DA’s Public Integrity Unit. Should the Grand Jurors return an indictment against Pickens, the case will be assigned to a Fulton County Superior Court Judge and scheduled for trial.
Indictments only contain charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the burden of the DA's office to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.