The Northwestern District Attorney’s Child Abuse Unit (CAU) established in 1987, consists of assistant district attorneys, family service advocates, and child interview specialists who work closely with law enforcement and child protective services workers to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to child abuse (S.A.I.N.).
The CAU's mission is to stop child abuse and child abusers, to protect children, and to keep children and families safe, healthy, and strong. The Unit specializes in investigating and prosecuting cases involving the abuse of children and uses a child-friendly setting, the Children's Advocacy Center to help children feel comfortable and safe. The CAU partners with local and national experts to seek just outcomes and to provide support, medical care, and mental health services to victims and their families.
Prosecution of child abuse presents special challenges. Typically, the key witnesses are the child victims themselves. Although a S.A.I.N. interview of a child greatly reduces the number of times professionals will have to speak to the child, prosecutions require child victims to tell their stories in court. Usually the offender is someone the child knows and trusted: the father or mother, a sibling, relative, neighbor or other respected adult or adolescent. For sexual abuse—the most commonly prosecuted type of abuse—there is often limited evidence besides the child’s testimony. Because of the Sixth Amendment right of defendants to confront their accusers, child victims who testify in court must often do so with their abusers facing them from the defense table. Child victims are sometimes ambivalent or even opposed to prosecuting their abuse, because of the difficulties involved, their relationship with the perpetrators, or both. The CAU will work closely with the victim and the victim’s family to minimize the stress of the criminal process, to coordinate with agencies who can provide necessary services and to prepare them for trial.
Select NWDA Child Abuse Unit Staff
- Linda Pisano, Chief of the Child Abuse Unit, Assistant District Attorney
The Chief of the Child Abuse Unit is responsible for the administrative and investigative management of the Unit. The Chief also handles criminal investigation and prosecutions of child sexual and physical abuse, child pornography and child endangerment cases in the Northwestern District, in the Superior Court.
- Frederic Bartmon, CAU Superior Court Assistant District Attorney
The Unit’s Superior Court Assistant District Attorney is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of child sexual and physical abuse, child pornography and child endangerment cases in the Northwestern District in the Superior Court.
- Lori Odierna, CAU District Court Supervising Attorney
The Unit’s District Court Supervising Attorney is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of child sexual and physical abuse, child pornography and endangerment cases in the Northwestern District and the supervision of District Court Assistant District Attorneys handling child abuse cases. This Attorney primarily handles prosecutions in the District Court.
- Deirdre Kelleher-Grass, CAU Assistant District Attorney
This position primarily attends SAIN interviews and oversees criminal investigations of child sexual and physical abuse, child pornography and child endangerment cases.
- Anne Yereniuk, Superior Court Assistant District Attorney, Child Sexual Predator Task Force
In 2012, the NWDA formed a Child Sexual Predator Task Force with the help of a Department of Justice COPS Grant. The work of this Task Force continues under the leadership of ADA Anne Yereniuk. The protection of children has been the core mission of this Task Force which works to hold child sexual predators accountable through investigations, prosecutions, probation and parole home audits.
- Kellie Beaulieu, Unit Coordinator/Advocate/Forensic Interviewer
Family Service Advocates
The Family Service Advocate assists the child victim and non-offending family members throughout the entire legal process. As a more specifically designated Victim Witness Advocate, a Family Service Advocate works to meet the needs of child victims and their non-offending family members during the process of an investigation, throughout any following court proceedings and any post-conviction proceedings as accorded by the Victim Bill of Rights. This assistance is accomplished by explaining to and updating families about these different processes. Advocates also supply information about available resources. Advocates are able to make further referrals, such as mental health referrals, in order to aid in a victim’s healing process.
Family Service Advocates for Hampshire County cases (413) 586-9225
- Kathy Bengtson
- Sonia Serrazina
- Heather Hubbard (Juvenile Court)
Family Service Advocates for Hampshire County cases (413) 774-3186
- Debra Kierstead
- Linda Rogers