Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

April 27, 2014

District Attorney's special unit prosecutes child predators

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and the Navarro County District Attorney's office marked the occasion with three convictions of pedophiles and molesters.

The creation of a Special Victims Unit within the Navarro County District Attorney's office came about because of the 2008 tragic case of Hanna Mack, the 6-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and murdered in Navarro Mills. The unit was created by District Attorney Lowell Thompson, and former Assistant District Attorney Vicki Foster worked on the team, as well.

“When we did the disposition of that case I decided we were going to have people specialized in that, who could hone their skills and get special training because they're very important.

“When (Foster) left, I knew I wanted to bring people in with the mental strength that could keep this going,” Thompson said. “It takes special people because it will burn you out. I looked for certain types of personalities, people who can handle it.”

Currently, two prosecutors are on that team — lead prosecutor Amy Cadwell and Andrew Wolf.

Since then, the two have vigorously gone after child molesters, child porn addicts, and rapists. It's not a fun job, but it's definitely satisfying, both said.

“I feel good when I get to send a pedophile away,” Wolf said. “Maybe it's bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon, but it matters to that kid and that family.”

Cadwell came to Navarro County about five years ago. She always knew she wanted to be a lawyer, but she didn't know what kind.

“I didn't think I'd be a prosecutor, but I interned in the Fort Bend DA's office and I loved it,” Cadwell explained. “That was a definite right and wrong — going after people who've committed terrible things. I like that that's our goal, to do justice and not get money or hurt people.”

Cadwell, 39, came to the child victim's area after the daughter of a friend came to her for help after being victimized.

“That made me realize these are types of offenses and crimes I want to prosecute,” Cadwell said.

Originally from Austin, Cadwell has her undergraduate degree from LeTourneau University. She attended law school at the University of Houston and began practicing law in Nacogdoches County before moving to Navarro County five years ago. She interned at Fort Bend County while in law school.

When not working, she coaches soccer for girls under the age of six, attends Northside Baptist Church, and enjoys reading and music.

“I absolutely know this is what God wants me to do,” she said. “Somehow, He gives me the strength to keep going on each case.”

Her office in the warren-like DA's office is decorated with children's drawings in bright colors and inscribed “To Amy.” Cadwell, who is single, doesn't have any children of her own yet, but the kids she defends have sent her thanks through their art.

“Every one of those victims ended up being special,” Cadwell said. “I tell them if they want to contact me they can, but they don't have to.”

Andrew Wolf, 40, wanted to be a policeman when he grew up, and it was while he was in college that one of his criminal justice professors advised law school to the precocious would-be officer. As an undergraduate, Wolf went and observed a child abuse case in Travis County court.

“I thought 'I could do this everyday and feel bad for people who don't have this job,'” Wolf recalled.

Wolf relates well to the child victims, because he says he's a kid at heart himself.

“When I retire, I want to work at Disney World,” he said. “I'm told I act like a kid. It helps you relate to the victims. It's important when you have kids come in, they get a sense they're a person and this isn't just another case.”

Wolf's bachelor's degree is in criminal justice, while his law degree is from the University of Houston. He did an internship in the child abuse division of the Harris County District Attorney's office while in law school. He began practicing in the Victoria County DA's office, then moved to San Jacinto County, and then went to he Llano/Burnett/San Saba counties DA's office. When his family began growing, they moved to Navarro to be closer to family in Teague.

Wolf and his wife, Niki, have a three-year-old son, and they teach the Wolf Pack Karate schools in Fairfield, Centerville, Teague and Groesbeck. They're considering opening classes in Corsicana in the fall.

Wolf credits his karate classes with helping him keep his head on straight and prevent burnout. The sense of rightness in what they're doing — locking up predators, and helping victims heal — is also its own reward, he said.

“We're supposed to be zealous advocates for the victims, not just justice factories,” he explained. “It helps them process if they know someone believes them. Whether we win or lose, they know they're believed.”

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com.