Richmond County sheriff’s investigator Cheryl Dorsey works sex crimes. It is the job no one wants, and she knows it.
“It’s hard not to take this job to heart because we get some really young victims,” she said. “How do you look at a child that’s been sexually assaulted by an adult and not get emotional?”
Dorsey has been working Augusta sex crimes and crimes against children for more than two years. In that time, she has learned to be an expert mental organizer. She knows when she has to be an advocate, an enforcer, and when it is time to be a counselor. She learned how to separate home time and work time. Although she acknowledges that she is very protective of her 2-year-old granddaughter, Dorsey said she also has learned she cannot always be there.
The Brooklyn, N.Y., native joined the military after high school. She served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In May, Dorsey retired after 32 years of active and reserve service as an E7.
“I wanted to do something different,” she said of joining the Army. “But really, I always wanted to be a cop.”
Dorsey moved to the area and started at the Augusta Police Department in 1994. She moved to the sheriff’s office after consolidation two years later. The Mod Squad and CSI fanatic wanted to be in investigations. She got that chance in 1999, when she was promoted to work property crimes. From there she moved to runaways and missing juveniles, to family violence, to violent crimes, then sex crimes.
A case that sticks out in her mind is that of psychologist Kenneth McPherson, who was accused of exposing himself and showing nude pictures to an 8-year-old autistic patient last year.
“That one was hard,” she said. “The victims had no one to speak for them.”
One of the prouder moments in her career, Dorsey said, occurred when she and her former partner, Investigator Charlene Durrence, presented the Child Advocacy
Center with a mural of 39 hands in December, one for each arrest they had made in
cases involving children in the previous eight months.
“Those people (at the Child Advocacy Center) work so hard, and we get so close,” she said. “It was nice to be able to show what our work together has accomplished.”
Dorsey also works closely with the Division of Family and Children Services and the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program. Though she holds dozens of training certificates, her work with those groups has sparked her desire to get her degree in psychology, which she is pursuing at the University of Phoenix.
Dorsey said she thinks the number of sex crime victims speaking out has gone up since she has been working them.
After Durrence was moved to violent crimes in December, Dorsey is the only sex crimes investigator for the department. When her case load gets too large, other violent-crimes investigators will step in.
“With the education that is available now, and with high-profile cases like (former Penn State football coach Jerry) Sandusky, more victims are coming forward,” she said.
Sandusky was found guilty in November of 52 charges of sexual crimes against children. stemming from his time at the school.
Dorsey said sex crimes are historically one of the most under-reported crimes, but she hopes the increase in cases represents a change in mindset.
“I hope more and more people come forward,” Dorsey said. “If we don’t know about it, we can’t investigate it.”