newswaynesboro family goes public with frustration over lack of progress in sexual assault case

Waynesboro family goes public with frustration over lack of progress in sexual assault case

child teen abuse
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A mother and father are going public with their frustration over how the Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney office is handling the investigation into the reported sexual abuse of their teen daughter.

So frustrated that they’re going to reveal their names, in the face of the possible repercussions.

“We are 100 percent united in trying to get justice for our now-teenage child,” said Michael Obenschain, who first reached out to Augusta Free Press last summer to raise issue with how he and his wife, Cynthia, had been waiting to hear back from Commonwealth’s Attorney David Ledbetter regarding the case involving their daughter.

The Obenschains say the girl was sexually assaulted by a Waynesboro resident – we’re withholding the man’s name – with the onset of the abuse, ongoing until the summer of 2021, dating back more than a decade.

The man, the parents say, was a friend of the family who showered the girl and her sister with gifts and was trusted enough by the family to take the girls to his Waynesboro home, which shares a property line with an elementary school in the city.

A message written by the victim in this case.

What had been going on outside of the parents’ knowledge finally came to a head in August 2021, when the girls were at a summer camp. An exercise at the camp asked those in attendance to consider the concept of forgiveness.

The girl told her parents afterword about the exercise, and that she would have to try to forgive her abuser, who she named to them, “for what he did to me.”

Michael Obenschain, a retired policeman, reached out to the Virginia State Police, because it has been alleged that the offenses had taken place in multiple jurisdictions.

A State Police investigator ultimately recommended to Waynesboro Police that charges be filed in the case.

That recommendation was made in December, but no charges have been filed, and the reason, according to Michael Obenschain, is that he has been told that the Commonwealth’s Attorney office has been overwhelmed with a heavy caseload, and that this particular case is “not a priority.”

The last the Obenschains heard from the Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney office regarding their case was in April 2022.

Michael Obenschain said he was told by David Ledbetter, the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Waynesboro since 2014, that Ledbetter “would review the file” and get back to him.

So now we’re at the 14-month mark since the State Police recommended that charges be placed, and 10 months since the promise from Ledbetter that he would review the file and get back to the parents, “and we have still heard nothing from the Commonwealth’s Attorney or anyone in his office,” said Cindy Obenschain, a practice supervisor in the UVA Health System.

We first wrote about this case in a Sept. 1, 2022, story, “A teen was sexually assaulted in Waynesboro last year: Why have no charges been brought?

For that piece, we reached out to Ledbetter, who declined comment, even as to whether or not there is an active investigation into the case.

We reached out to Ledbetter again last week, and Ledbetter again offered no comment on the record on the case.

On our side of this story, we had to make a difficult call on how to proceed. It is not accepted journalism practice to name the victims of sexual assault, and by naming the Obenschains, it is almost certain that the identity of the victim in this case will become known.

This was presented to the Obenschains as a matter of concern.

The family, in a meeting with us, asked their daughter to, in her own words, express why she wants to press on with going forward with the public effort to draw attention to her case.

“The innocence I had as a child was taken away from me,” she wrote in a text. “With time, I’ve been able to put it behind me, but the ability to put it behind me completely is being taken away by the Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney.”

The girl is in therapy for PTSD following the decade-plus of assaults, her parents say, and lives in daily fear of running into her abuser – while out shopping, going out to eat, really anywhere.

The case has taken its toll on the family. The Obenschains have been separated for almost three years, predating the news from their daughter about the years of abuse, but both stressed to us in a meeting last week that they are “united in our pursuit of justice.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, Want to reach me? Try [email protected].