St. Martin Neighbors "Disgusted" By Alleged Sex Ring

The first time any of the neighbors near 7670 Lexington Drive saw something weird was Sunday, when a for sale sign suddenly appeared on the Earls' front lawn.

Within days, police entered the house, looking for clues to link Ricky and Christina Earls to illegal sexual activity with Jackson County children.

"I'm just sad," neighbor Doris Fetters said. "That's all I can do is be sad, thinking that happened to that family and to that neighborhood."

Fetters and Shirley Wilson both live across the street from the Lexington Drive home at the center of this alleged sex ring. Mrs. Fetters watched from her porch when Jackson County deputies first arrived at her neighbor's home.

"And my husband says maybe they're investigating that house," she remembered.

To Mrs. Wilson, the impending revelation that neighbors were linked to sex with children was both shocking and unnerving. "Just disgusting things go through your head," she thought.

Lexington Drive is an unassuming street in west Jackson County. The only real noise you hear is from the traffic on I-10 just past the tree line. Mrs. Wilson has lived on Lexington's corner since 1973. In recent days, she didn't notice anything unusual outside her home.

"Nothing suspicious that would ever lead you to think anything was not normal," she said.

At that point, her friend Doris added, "I thought they were a real nice family."

A neighborhood watch sign sits on Mrs. Wilson's front yard. It says neighbors have been trained to report suspicious activity to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. If there was suspicious activity taking place across the street, at 7670 Lexington Drive, she didn't know about it until deputies arrived a couple of days ago.

"You know, we didn't really know those people. All we knew was the little kids playing outside. That's all we knew," she said.

Jackson County investigators say the Earls' had four children. Authorities are not saying if they're considered victims in this alleged sex ring.

Clinical social workers say the impact of sexual abuse on a teenage child can be devastating.

"The child, I don't care how old that person is; they're still a child," said Lou Anna Claveau, a clinical social worker in Gulfport. "They don't have the maturity. They rely on us as adults to teach them that maturity, that reassuring, that critical thinking."

Claveau has seen how children respond to these sorts of horrific incidents.

"A lot of times they want to cover it up," her studies have concluded. "And the way that kids know to cover it up is usually some very negative ways. Either they'll act out sexually themselves because they're emotionally and psychologically immature to understand what has happened to them. We have to teach them as therapists that it isn't their fault."

According to Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd, the sexual abuse in this case started in February, 2006 and ended last week, when authorities were tipped off that illegal activity could be taking place on Lexington Drive near St. Martin.