Man charged with decades-old child sex abuse; investigators search for more victims

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ETOWAH COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — A man is in the Etowah County jail charged with child sex abuse and investigators believe there could be additional victims.

Bobby Wallis Copeland, 82, faces charges of sodomy, sexual abuse, and aggravated child abuse.

Copeland is in the Etowah County Detention Center with a bond totaling $140,000.

He was arrested at his home in Mississippi after a man reported that he was abused between 1982 and 1984.

Investigators said that after talking to Copeland, they think more victims are out there.

“Bobby Copeland stated that he did have 10 other victims, we are just trying to look for those victims to come forward and it does take a lot of courage to actually come forward,” said Kelley McGinnis, with the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office.

Copeland also faces charges in Lee and Cleburne Counties.

“One of the times that he was the victim was at one of the hunting clubs that he and Mr. Copeland attended together. Mr. Copeland was a family friend so was fully trusted by his parents,” said McGinnis.

According to child advocates, allegations of abuse by a trusted figure are common.

“One out of every 10 children will be sexually assaulted by their 18th birthday so as parents we have to be vigilant about who are children are with,” said Patricia Falcon, Director at the James Barrie Center for Children in Gadsden.

In a time when more victims are speaking out, even decades later, Falcon said it is important to listen.

“I think it is important that we remember that people tell at different times and it might be that they have their own family now and they’re thinking about maybe their children or them just really are at a place where they are in their life where they are able to talk about and verbalize the things that have happened to them,” said Falcon.

The investigation into Bobby Copeland continues. Anyone with information should contact the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office or the agency in the jurisdiction where the crimes occurred.

Stay with CBS 42 for updates.

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