Oriana House employee among those arrested for underage solicitation

A former Oriana House Reserve Center employee is facing a felony charge in West Virginia.

Randall Franklin Shepherd, 55, of 233 Dagg Road, Parkersburg, was one of the seven men arrested in Parkersburg at the beginning of the month following an undercover solicitation of minors investigation. He worked for Oriana at the time of the arrest.

Shepherd faces the charge of solicitation of a minor, a felony with a penalty of two to 10 years in prison, and waived his preliminary hearing in Wood County Magistrate Court this week.

Oriana House Inc. is a private 501(c)3 nonprofit which provides addiction treatment services, community corrections programs and behavioral health services in Ohio. The nonprofit currently operates a halfway house and correctional center in Reno where Oriana Executive Vice President Bernie Rochford said Shepherd was employed as a residential supervisor.

Marietta Municipal Court’s Probation Office confirmed that they had received notice from Oriana House that Shepherd was formerly an employee since the probation office has a working relationship with the corrections facility in Reno.

Oriana also offers out-patient services through Rigel Recovery Services in Reno and in January helped launch a drug court program with Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Kerenyi.

“Randy Shepherd was employed by us, but he is no longer,” said Rochford Wednesday. “We can’t comment on an ongoing investigation, but without speaking on him specifically, I can say we do thorough criminal background checks and have state-oversight of mandated ongoing training for our staff.”

Rochford said the nonprofit employs more than 700 employees across the state and the charge against Shepherd came as a surprise to the organization.

Anticipating concerns from parents of children attending St. Mary Catholic School near the location of a planned detox crisis center Oriana intends to install in the former Woman’s Home on Third Street, Rochford said the vetting process for hiring and training employees is more stringent than that of clients, but that protections from local law enforcement are also a protection to rely upon.

“Any client who may reside there overnight, if they’re a registered sex offender they would have to inform the sheriff’s office,” explained Rochford, noting state law prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or day-care facility.

Bret Frye, a parent of children at the school, said the arrest is a concern.

“Certainly this can happen in any organization, but this situation is exacerbated because of Oriana’s proposed location next to a school,” he said. “If their employee screening and oversight is this poor, what can we expect with regard to patient monitoring? We need this facility but not 47 feet from 160 children.”

According to a release from Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin, the investigation was conducted by the West Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, of which the local department is a member. It involved men arranging to meet underage girls through social media.

Each defendant knew the age of the juvenile they intended to meet, all of which were under 18, the release says. All were arrested by undercover officers without incident.

At a glance:

• A former Oriana House employee faces a felony charge of solicitation of a minor in West Virginia.

• Randall Franklin Shepherd, 55, of 233 Dagg Road, Parkersburg, waived his preliminary hearing in Wood County Magistrate Court this week and was bonded over to Wood County Circuit Court.

• Shepherd formerly worked as a residential supervisor at the Oriana House Reserve Center in Reno.

Source: Marietta Municipal Court and Oriana House, Inc.