Griffin firefighter charged in child sex abuse case fired

Kevin Burkholder and Juliana Patel facing numerous additional charges

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Kevin Burkholder, a Griffin-Fire Rescue firefighter arrested Aug. 4 on multiple child sex abuse charges, has been terminated.

Burkholder is also now facing numerous additional criminal charges, as is Juliana Patel, a Griffin woman implicated in this case.

Upon learning a warrant had been issued for Burkholder’s arrest, he was transported to the Griffin Police Department by Griffin Fire-Rescue Chief John Hamilton and Capt. Brandon Gates. Burkholder was held at the GPD until custody was transferred to the Meriwether County Sheriff’s Office.

City of Griffin officials immediately began the processes outlined in the city charter required to take administrative actions, including an internal investigation conducted by Hamilton and Gates.

“He was on administrative leave from about 4 o’clock (Aug. 4) until the next morning. The very next day (Aug. 5), we were putting him on unpaid administrative leave and then on Friday (Aug. 7), that’s when we made the decision to terminate,” Hamilton explained. “So, Tuesday, they took him into custody, and Wednesday I had discussions with Meriwether County. Multiple times. They came down Thursday looking for some information and to talk with me and Capt. (Brandon) Gates. Information we gathered that day plus information we received from the (Griffin) PD that Friday, we thought it best that we sever that relationship.”

Burkholder did not appeal his termination, which has since been finalized.

“It is policy. It could have taken weeks. It was my decision. It was the information I was privileged to from that Tuesday up through that Thursday evening. I went to (Deputy City Manager) Ms. O’Connor and (City Manager) Mr. Smith and even (GPD) Chief Yates was involved. I told them it was my decision we needed to sever that relationship and they agreed. Over the next few hours, I got that information to Mr. Smith and the paperwork was processed. It would have been sooner, but that had been a rough week. We’d all been through a lot and we just couldn’t get it done that day, but we did get it done the next Monday. We’re still trying to recover,” Hamilton said. “For both parties involved, that was what we thought needed to happen. Based on the charges and his ability to work with us – the public trust part is gone – and he wouldn’t be able to work with us. We take the public trust seriously. We think very highly of it and if we’re ever confronted with an issue, we try to deal with it immediately. Fortunately, they’re few and far between.”

When asked if any of the charges Burkholder faces are alleged to have occurred while he was on duty as a firefighter, Hamilton said, “Not as far as we know. We haven’t been given any information at this time to believe that.”

Hamilton said the charges are an affront to the fire service and what it represents in the community.

“Our character goes a long way. The actions, the things he’s been charged with, go completely against our character in the fire service. We need that trust because people have to be able to trust us to help,” he said.

Burkholder was initially charged with one count each of incest, aggravated child molestation, sodomy and child molestation along with two counts of sexual exploitation of children and four counts of unlawful eavesdropping or surveillance.

He has since been charged with an additional 12 charges of sexual exploitation of children and one additional charge of unlawful eavesdropping or surveillance for a total of 23 charges.

Juliana Caroline Patel, a Griffin woman arrested Aug. 10 in connection to the Burkholder case, was originally charged with four counts of aggravated child molestation and four counts of sexual exploitation of children.

Patel has now been charged with one additional count of aggravated child molestation, one additional count of sexual exploitation of children and two counts of use of a device to film underneath or through clothing for a total of 12 counts.

Burkholder is being held without bond in the Meriwether County Jail and Patel is being held without bond in the Spalding County Jail.

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