Ben-Gals cheerleader, mom plead not guilty in sex abuse case

TAYLOR MILL, Ky. - A Ben-Gals cheerleader and her middle school principal mother entered not guilty pleas for their roles in a sex abuse scandal during their arraignment in a Kenton County courtroom Monday morning.

Sarah Jones, Captain of the Ben-Gals cheerleading squad and a former Dixie Heights High School teacher in Edgewood, is accused of sexually abusing a student and unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual activities. She resigned from her teaching position Nov. 30 for personal reasons.

Cheryl Jones is accused of tampering with evidence in the case. She was put on administrative leave Thursday from her job as Principal of Twenhofel Middle School in Taylor Mill.

Kenton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Terri Cox-Cruey sent a letter home to Twenhofel parents Friday indicating that Assistant Principal Travis Caudill will assume the responsibilities of principal. He will be supported by Kelly Connor, Director of Student Engagement for the district. Barb Martin, Assistant Superintendent of Academic and Support Services, will remain as supervisor of the school.

Contacted at her home on Friday, Cheryl Jones said that her attorney, Charles Lester, Jr., advised her and Sarah not to comment on the case. Lester is handling matters until April 24, when the legal license suspension of his partner, Eric Deters, is lifted. Deters will handle the Jones' representation from that point forward.

Lester issued a statement that indicated that both women will enter not guilty pleas to the charges and he will ask the state to produce all their evidence for review.

"Sarah has maintained her innocence," Lester wrote. "The indictment of her mother is completely baseless. Cheryl Jones did not tamper with evidence."

Edgewood Police Chief Tony Kramer said there is compelling evidence in the case that was presented to a Kenton County grand jury and it's now up to a judge and jury to decide guilt or innocence.

Jefferson County Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Sarah Farmer is prosecuting the case because of potential conflicts if the Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney's Office handled the matter. She said on Friday that the indictment speaks for itself.

Dr. Cox-Cruey said the charges against Sarah Jones were shocking and that the district is closely monitoring the situation.

"We want all our students to be safe," she said.

In Cheryl Jones' case, Dr. Cox-Cruey said she was unaware that an investigation was underway until the indictment was returned. She added the district will monitor that case as well to see what action to take next.

Surprise was the reaction given by most parents and citizens.

Taylor Mill resident Sandra Bailey said she doubted that Cheryl Jones meant to break any laws. Instead, she wondered if it was a case of a mother trying to help her child.

"If it's proven that she's done it, then I think it's actually wrong, but like I said being as it's her daughter, you just never know how people react," Bailey said.

Connie Sams of Independence said even if it turns out to be a family matter, it's not right.

"If it's family or non-family it could happen and if it does, you need to be honest about it and up front," she said. "Covering up is no way to handle it, especially when your kids are in their care."

Both women posted cash bonds Thursday and were released from jail -- $50,000 for Sarah Jones and $30,000 for Cheryl Jones. At Monday's hearing, Kenton County Circuit Judge Patricia Summe reduce the bond amounts for both women to $15,000 each.

Sarah and Cheryl Jones are scheduled for a trial on June 27.

Stay with 9 News and WCPO.com for updates as they become available.

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