DA: No decision yet on criminal charges in Camp Beckwith Melatonin scandal

Camp Beckwith is located in southern Fairhope, on the coast of Weeks Bay. (Photo: Rodney Rocker, WALA FOX10 News)

Like many mothers who have contacted FOX10 News Investigates over the last few days, Liz Wilson, of Mobile, was shocked and upset when her daughter came home from Camp Beckwith last week telling her other girls in her cabin were given pills to help them sleep.

"The situation made me uncomfortable," said Wilson, "I'm hurt, and I'm mad."

Wilson said her daughter shared a bunk bed with a girl who cried at night, because she was homesick.

"A little girl that bunked below (my daughter) had trouble going to sleep at night, and that's when (my daughter) informed us that counselors offered the little girl what they were referring to as 'homesick sleeping pills,' and the child did take it, and my child witnessed that the little girl stopped crying and went to sleep," explained Wilson.

Officials said the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office is now investigating camp employees giving more than six different eight and nine-year-olds Melatonin pills without their parents' consent.

Thursday, July 26, a local church leader overseeing the camp admitted in an exclusive interview with FOX10 News that it did happen, and is working to earn back parents' trust.

Bishop Russell Kendrick of the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast said he first learned about the issue when the camp director contacted him over the weekend, and "on further investigation, there was Melatonin that was given to some of the children, at the camp last week."

FOX10 News Investigates asked Kendrick why the supplements were given out.

"I have the same question," he responded. "I don't know why the Melatonin was given."

Kendrick said employees involved in giving the children melatonin have been suspended, and other employees will be retrained on medical policies.

He also says the diocese will look into changing some camp policies.

"Our care of what is a parents most valuable treasure, which is their child, is paramount," said Kendrick. "And I'm going to do all that I can to try to rebuild their trust that has been fractured, and make sure that we do better."

Baldwin County District Attorney Bob Wilters said the case is complicated, and it could take some time before any charges are filed, if at all.

He said one of the challenges in the case is that all of the alleged victims do not live in Baldwin County, so investigators are working to set up face-to-face interviews with everyone affected.

Wilters also said investigators will be taking a close look at all documents and waivers parents signed before sending their children to Beckwith.

FOX10 News Investigates obtained a copy of the camp's medical waiver parents are required to fill out.

It asks parents to provide additional over-the-counter medications for their child to take while staying at the camp, and it also asks for parents to sign if they give permission for the camp to administer over-the-counter medications housed on site to "treat symptoms such as headaches, allergies, upset stomach, etc."

The form does not specifically state anything about supplements for sleeping.

FOX10 News Investigates broke this story, and will keep you posted as the investigation moves forward.

All content © 2018, WALA; Mobile, AL. (A Meredith Corporation Station). All Rights Reserved.


Investigative Reporter

Recommended for you