I-TEAM Update: Justice delayed, justice denied? Molestation trial set

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 7:30 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2022 at 8:02 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - An Augusta child psychologist out on bond for more than 10 years now is finally set to go to trial in March.

The forward progress in the case comes after the I-TEAM first started asking questions last year about the decade-long delay. Dr. Kenneth McPherson was arrested back in 2011 on multiple counts of child molestation. Some of his alleged victims and their families wondered if he’d ever have his day in court

We found delay after delay after delay. Almost all of them appear to have been in favor of the accused child molester. Now, the wheels of justice have started turning again, but for some, it’s too little too late.

“She had a good heart. She cared, she cared about everybody. She did… I mean, she really did,” remembered grandson, Zachary Potts.

He spoke at her memorial service he organized not long after she passed away.

Ruby Vanenkenvoort did not have much time left when she found out she had cancer. With a semester left to go in high school, Potts dropped out to take care of the woman who raised him.

“I’m just trying to do what she would want me to do now.”

We first introduced you to Zachary Potts and his grandmother back in December. Their story broke more than a decade of silence surrounding multiple alleged victims in a child molestation case involving an Augusta child psychologist seemingly cast aside until the I-TEAM started investigating.

Dr. Kenneth McPherson was arrested back in 2011 after multiple allegations he was sexually abusing his young patients, including Zachary, who started weekly sessions when he was only five. A search warrant would later reveal Dr. McPherson had a naked photo of Zachary on his computer.

“Nothing’s been said all these years,” Ruby Vanenkenvoort told us then of her anguish over the case that robbed her grandson of his innocence. “You see them every day, you know, getting arrested for child pornography. You know and go into prison. But he’s walking free after 10 years.”

We found since his arrest, Dr. McPherson isn’t technically free, but he’s still subject to the bail terms he first agreed to in 2011.

In all, two grand juries indicted him on seven counts of child molestation and one count of sexual exploitation of a minor. Judge Carlisle Overstreet granted McPherson a $200,000 bond if the then-54-year-old promised to live with his parents, stick to a 10 pm curfew, and not have any contact with children.

The I-TEAM uncovered years of delays on both sides that beg the question: was the plan all along to leave him locked in this limbo where Dr. McPherson can never technically be found innocent or guilty?

Vanenkenvoort wondered the same question. “It was also said the reason we didn’t go to court several different other times that, ‘oh, he had cancer. He was dying of cancer.’”

Dr. McPherson’s lawyers make numerous references to his declining health over the years, but the I-TEAM couldn’t find any documents that specifically mention cancer. Still, Vanenkenvoort insisted she was told that more than once.

“Well, it’s been 10 years! He’s still living. That man’s not dying of cancer!” She didn’t know it at the time, but she was the one dying of cancer. Listening back to her words now, it’s almost as if she knew this interview might be her last chance to tell her part of this story.

She said coming to the I-TEAM was her last resort. “If something’s not done after this, you know, maybe. I don’t know.”

Frustrated with the slow-moving criminal process, she tried to make him pay another way in civil court, but she says the lawsuit fell apart before it even was filed. “Then he says, ‘Well, there is no money involved.’ Because he was going to do it for, you know, all the kids. And he said, ‘because he’s got his practice in his family’s name.’”

The I-TEAM did some checking into Dr. McPherson’s practice, and we found the Central Avenue office was a gift from his sister in 2005. Richmond county property records show he gave it right back to her in April of 2011 one month after his arrest. He was in jail on those child molestation charges – waiting on his bond hearing when the property transfer happened.

“So, I felt like he, he knew one day, you know, he’d get caught, " Vanenkenvoort said. She also hoped one day, there would be closure. “I mean, you can never forget. But you can forgive.”

Meredith Anderson: “Has time healed any of this wound?” Vanenkenvoort: “Not really. Not unless something’s done.”

Ruby Vanenkenvoort was diagnosed with lung cancer shortly after this interview. She told us by phone she was relieved to hear there finally was a court date, but she will not ever take the stand. She died January 21, 2022, missing the start of the trial by just 45 days.

The trial is still set for March 7-th. News 12 is still planning to be there in the courtroom.

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