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10 Investigates: Pediatric dentist under criminal investigation for allegedly mistreating children in his care

A Chillicothe Dentist is under investigation by police based on allegations that he assaulted children in his care, police records show.

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — A Chillicothe Dentist is under investigation by police based on allegations that he assaulted children in his care, police records show.

The most recent accusation comes from a dental assistant in his office.

But a seven-month investigation by 10TV found this is far from the first accusation against Doctor Ronald Griffin.

Credit: WBNS-10TV
Ronald A. Griffin

In fact, records show seven parents and one dental assistant have filed police reports against him since 2004, but he was never arrested or charged. 

At least seven others filed Dental Board complaints against him- but he was never disciplined.

10TV also found passionate supporters of this same dentist. 

10TV spoke on camera with families of five patients - three who filed police reports and two who say they filed complaints with the State Dental Board.

We also spoke with six women who worked in Griffin's office who say they witnessed him physically mistreat children- to the point of leaving bruises and broken blood vessels. 

Yet police say they didn't have sufficient evidence to seek charges against him, and the State Dental Board says he has a clean disciplinary history.

We also talked with Griffin himself - he denies harming any children - and three young patients, who say they can't believe the allegations against him. 

Now 10 years old, Evie Oakes was 7 when she says Griffin hurt her.

"He told me that if I wanted to, I could leave the room,” said Evie. “And I was like, ok, so I start leaning up and that's when he pushed me down and he said, ‘You don't talk to me like that.’"

Evie's mom Amber says she wanted to be in the room with her, but Griffin wouldn't allow it.

She says afterward, Evie broke down crying and told her what happened.

"I took her to the bathroom and looked and she did have red marks plum across her chest right here where he had held her down. He scared her so bad that she urinated in his chair,” said Amber Oakes.

"And I'm happy it was done to me,” said Evie through tears. “Because I didn't want it to happen to my little brother or my sister."       

Evie's story was documented in a 2017 Chillicothe Police report.

The officer wrote Evie said "the dentist was hurting her, she said that he held her down by putting his hand on her chest and would not let her up, then clamped his hand over her mouth, pushing down...where the abscess was, hurting her. Evie told her she was so scared she peed her pants."

"When I went to the police department whey were not surprised to hear his name,” said Evie’s mom.

Police didn't seek charges in the case, but according to the report, forwarded it to Ross County Children Services and the State Dental Board.

Children Services records are confidential, and so are Dental Board investigations, unless the board issues discipline, which it did not do in this case. 

Amber Oakes was the sixth parent to file a police report against Griffin between 2004 and 2017. 

Stephanie Cahill did the same after she says Griffin hurt her daughter Keela in 2013.

Now 14, Keela Cahill was 8 years old at the time. 

"I was pretty nervous because at the time I was very young and still didn't like dentists, like every child doesn't,” Keela said. “And I start to move around a little, get a little shaky, and out of nowhere, he hits me in the stomach and pushes me back onto the table."

Her mom says Keela burst into tears immediately after leaving Griffin's Office.

"She said, ‘No mom I'm serious- he punched me and it hurts really bad and I think I'm gonna throw up. And she lifts her shirt up at that point, and I can see a very clear red mark of where he had hit her,” said Stephanie Cahill. 

Keela's parents filed a report with Chillicothe Police, accusing "Griffin of punching her in the stomach and telling her to shut up."

Police did not seek charges in response to this complaint. 

But looking at the 2013 complaint today, Captain Ron Meyers says he wants to know more.

"Reading on here, I don't think there's enough information,” Meyers said “I think it should be revisited. We should be asking some further questions. What was the mindset between the doctor and the child, what other witnesses were present? I can only make speculations at this point, but it needs followed up on- whether or not any charges are filed, but it just needs closed out regardless.”

Public records obtained by 10tv document five other parents who called Chillicothe Police to accuse Griffin of physically mistreating their children.  

In a 2016 police report, a 7-year-old girl wrote, "I put my hands up because I was scared. The next thing I remember, he put his hand over my nose and mouth. He said, 'This is what happens to you if you don't listen.’ He did it more than once.'"

She wrote Griffin's assistant said, "You need to tell your mom that he did that to you."

But when interviewed by police, the assistant said "Griffin had no intention to harm (the girl)." 

Police records say they tried to get a written statement from that dental assistant, but she did not respond.

Records show they send the case to the city prosecutor, who wrote she couldn't give a legal opinion on the case without the assistant's written statement.

That assistant did not respond to 10tv's repeated efforts to reach her. 

Another patient, who asked not to be identified, tells a similar story.

Now 21, she says she was 7 or 8 when Griffin hurt her.

“I just remember being in? the room, getting my mouth worked on, him saying, ‘Hey if this hurts, if I hurt you in any way, raise your hand.’ So I remember I raised my hand. He didn't stop. So I started moving around, screaming, and then he put his hand over my mouth and covered my nose as well to the point that I couldn't breathe."

In 2011, an 11-year-old told police that Griffin grabbed his arm so hard his "head fell off the back of the chair."

In the police report, the officer wrote that he noticed "red marks around the boy's bicep."

In a 2007 police report, a 5-year-old boy accused Griffin of "pushing him down in the chair and hurting him."

Griffin's assistant disputed the boy's story, telling police Griffin "did not grab or push on" him.      

In 2004, a 3-year-old girl named Faith came from a visit with Griffin showing red marks on her eyelids and neck.

A police officer confirmed seeing the marks, which her mother said "later turned into bruises"

Faith's parents didn't want to talk to us on camera.

10tv spoke to the woman who, according to the police report, was the assistant in the office that day.

Because she still lives and works in the community, she would speak to us only if we concealed her identity. 

"She was very tiny. Very petite. So sweet. Very little. And just scared. But she wasn't trying to climb out of the chair, it's not like she was trying to run out of the room - that you would need to use force,” the former assistant said. 

She says in her opinion, Griffin's handling of the girl was forceful and excessive.

"It was forceful. I mean after pressing on the chest, and then setting her on his lap, it was very firm. It was just too much."

"I wanted to leave honestly,” she said. “(And) take her with me. It was unacceptable."

The woman, a substitute dental assistant, says she never returned to Griffin's office.         

In a statement to police about the incident, Griffin said, "the red dots on Faith's eyes could be from her choking and gagging and busting blood vessels."

Griffin denied "he or his assistant grabbed or restrained the girl at any time."

In a police report, the officer wrote of contacting the dental assistant: "I did not believe that would be necessary at this time."

"Apparently the officer was satisfied with the evidence that was brought to him, or the circumstances that were brought to him at the time,” said Captain Ron Meyers. “But I'm definitely going to have someone follow up with her to make sure we're covering our bases on this."

Meyers wasn't directly involved with any of the complaints against Griffin. 

But he agreed to sit down with us, examine the reports, and help us understand how they were handled.

Glenn McEntyre: “Do you think this (2004) case could have been charged?” 

Captain Ron Meyers:  “The case possibly could have been charged, but it depends on what that witness said. So without interviewing that person to see...was the child...did the dentist make...was it an assault? Or was it manhandling? Was it being overly heavy handed?"

Glenn McEntyre: “But you would want to talk to that witness to get the answers to those questions.”

Captain Ron Meyers: “Yes. I would."

And as in every other police report reviewed by 10tv, police wrote they didn't have enough to charge Griffin.

In all, 10tv spoke to six different women who have worked in Griffin's office.

Most of them wouldn't agree to speak with us on camera, but all described witnessing or hearing concerning behavior involving Griffin and child patients: some of it physical, some verbal. 

We asked police whether the number of similar reports from different accusers impacts how they evaluate the cases.     

"You know, if it hasn't met that threshold, just because you complain on somebody and say this has been going on, unless it meets that threshold of probable cause, we can't file charges on it,” said Meyers.

We asked whether Meyers had any concerns about the allegations against Griffin. 

"I think that it may be something that a state board should look at,” he said.

Jessie Peoples filed a complaint with the State Dental Board, after she says Griffin hurt her son last December.

Five-year-old Ryan has autism, which makes him rock back and forth. 

"He had grabbed Ryan by the shoulder like this - hard enough to where Ryan couldn't rock. It stopped him from rocking. And that's when he yelled at Ryan and told him- ‘You stop that- you stop rocking like that and slamming into my chair.’ But when he was done, and he was holding him from rocking, he took his hand and shoved him back real hard into his seat,” said Jessie. "I tried to stay calm, for him and the other kids in there, and I knew he needed to get the tooth taken care of. When we left after I got him and my daughter in their car seat, I just sat in the driver's seat and bawled my eyes out. Because it broke my heart to see what my son had to go through."

Peoples filed her complaint with the Dental Board in December. 

The Board does not comment on the status of pending complaints.         

We took the concerns of these parents and former employees to Dr. Griffin.

Griffin either declined or didn't respond to three interview requests from 10tv. 

We caught up with him outside his Chillicothe office.

Glenn McEntyre: "We have eight families on the record accusing you of mistreating their children.”

Dr. Ronald Griffin: “I understand that. I understand that.” 

McEntyre: “What do you say to that?”

Griffin: “I have no comment.”         

McEntyre:  “Have you ever physically harmed a child?”

Griffin: “No, I've not.”

McEntyre: “Or been rough, unintentionally rough?”

Griffin: “No, not intentionally rough. But my attorney has advised me not to talk." 

McEntyre: “Have you ever left marks on a child, or bruises?”

Griffin: “Nope. No.”

McEntyre:  “Are all these children and their parents lying?”

Griffin: “I've seen 100,000 kids in about the last 20 years here in this practice. But again this will ruin my career."

10tv heard from about a dozen supporters of Griffin, four of whom agreed to speak with us on camera. 

"We've never witnessed or experienced anything negative at all," said parent Lisa McCray. 

"He always makes you feel comfortable and safe and he always says, ‘It's not going to hurt, everything will be okay.’ For a small kid, that's really important to make them feel welcome and not afraid. And he excelled at that, for me,” said Lisa’s daughter, 16-year-old Marissa Elkins. 

"He knows my school, my name, he remembers what activities I'm involved in. He's always asking about my parents and their health. He's very caring. He's always been very uplifting and positive,” said 18-year-old Maddie Coppel. 

"Knowing him for my entire lifetime of going to the dentist, I can't even see him in that way,” said 15-year-old Lexi Hagler. “He's always been super friendly and super personable, and I can't even imagine him acting in those ways."

Glenn McEntyre: "We've spoken to former assistants of yours who say they've witnessed misconduct or mistreatment of children.” 

Dr. Ronald Griffin: “That's not true. That is not true.” 

McEntyre:  “That's what they tell us.” 

Griffin:  “That is not true. Then they would have to go to a court of law, in my opinion.” 

McEntyre: “Why would they make that up?” 

Griffin: “I don't think you've talked to my former assistants like that and heard those things." 

McEntyre: “Have children ever left your office bruised, with broken blood vessels?”

Griffin: “Broken blood vessels, no. no."   

In emails to 10tv, Griffin defended himself and his practice, saying "I treat kids from 2-22, kids with special needs, kids with some behavioral issues, etc. We are 99% successful in treatment."

He wrote, "due to complaints like this...I've already made major policy changes...including more sedations" of patients.

"My next step is to install security cameras in my office, so that I can show ANYONE with a complaint that their child was pushed, forced, or manhandled through treatment, that it's just not true."

"I'm not a serial abuser,” he wrote. “I'm not an angry person 'behind closed doors.' I think there are some trumped-up stories here."

Glenn McEntyre: "Why do parents go to the point of filing police reports on you?”

Griffin: “They haven't.” 

McEntyre: “They have.” 

Griffin: “They haven't."

10tv has 8 police reports filed against him. 

Three of them include interviews with Griffin.

Griffin: "Well the police have not come to me.” 

McEntyre: “They have. I've got records.” 

At that point, Griffin closed his office door, saying “Thank you.”

Even after our February interview of Griffin, more police reports came in.

 One in June, filed by a dental assistant, and one in May, filed by Amber Meade, over how she says Griffin treated her 6-year-old daughter Morgan.

 "As we were leaving, she said, ‘Mom, he elbowed me.’ And I said, ‘Who?’ She said, ‘That dentist.’ I said, ‘Are you sure?’ Again, because she was all groggy from the medicine. I was like, ‘Well, let's get some stuff in our belly and we'll go home and talk about it.’ Once she kind of settled down, about 40 minutes later, she came up and was like, ‘Can we talk about that guy now?’ I was like, ‘Yeah. Yeah we can’. And then she told me everything, that he grabbed her face, she tried to turn away and he grabbed her face and yanked it and said what is wrong? And she said, ‘I want my mommy, I miss my mommy,’ and he kept elbowing her and told her, ‘Big girls don't cry.’"

 She asked Morgan to repeat the story on video. 

 "He's like, ‘What's wrong,’” Morgan is seen on video saying. “And I'm like, ‘I want my mommy,’ and then he went like this (jerks face). He's like ‘What's wrong?’ And then after he said what's wrong- first he elbowed me, and then after he elbowed me, he (jerks face hard) went like that, he said, ‘What's wrong’ and then I'm like, ‘I want my mom.’"

Amber Meade filed a report with Chillicothe Police, and a complaint with the Ohio State Dental Board.

It was only later that she and her husband learned they weren't the first.

“It's mind-blowing,” said Amber.

“That's the biggest part- if this was an isolated incident, I'm not saying we'd let it go, but we'd be like, okay we had a bad experience, we're not gonna go back,” said Morgan’s father Earl Meade. “When we realized, holy cow! This is big, this is a lot, this has been going on for years."

Again, Griffin has never been charged with a crime or disciplined by the state Dental Board. 

But for these patients and their parents, the door is not closed on this matter.

"It's troubling,” said Stephanie Cahill. “It's absolutely troubling to know that there's other children who feel victimized and traumatized by somebody's actions, especially somebody they feel, and are told at a very young age, that they can trust."

"Hearing now that there were other people, it really makes me kind of sad, because obviously it was traumatic for me,” said Keela Cahill. “And nobody should have to go through something like that. It's a dentist. You're not supposed to be afraid of those kinds of people."

"When do we start listening to the kids' voice?” asked Amber Meade. “They're not making it up. Not every child is making up this same thing. There's just no way that all these kids- that don't even know each other- it's not like they're all in high school and saying hey rumors fly. These are individual 5, 6, 7, 8-year-old kids that have never met each other. So when do we start listening to a child that's begging for help? We have to listen. And nobody's listening."

Chillicothe Police tell 10tv they have two active investigations into Griffin - one filed by Amber Meade, the other by a dental assistant. 

Police say those cases will be sent to the Chillicothe Law Director, to determine whether he will be charged.

Under Ohio law, even the existence of a complaint to the state Dental Board is confidential.

It doesn't become public unless the Dental Board finds wrongdoing and issues discipline. 

Dr Griffin has a clean record with the Dental Board.

The public isn't allowed to know more than that.

When 10tv tried to sit down with the Dental Board, they declined, telling us they weren't comfortable speaking with us on camera.

Griffin has also never been charged with a crime, and in emails to 10tv, denied any wrongdoing.