WVVA Hometown Hero: Sheriff’s Deputy fights sex crimes and child abuse

T.J. Cochran
T.J. Cochran(WVVA News)
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 5:09 PM EDT
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HINTON, W.Va. (WVVA) - April is Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it seems more than fitting the latest WVVA Hometown Hero is a law enforcement officer tasked with seeking justice for victims of those crimes in Summers County.  

Sergeant T.J. Cochran has spent more than half of his life in law enforcement, with more than 30 years of experience.  He’s worked in Virginia, North Carolina, and West Virginia where he was born and raised.

Sergeant Cochran shares what led him to pursue a career in law enforcement, “When I was a young boy in McDowell County, I used to see some of the older troops, deputies come through, and I guess it was just like the shiny badge, you know, watching, and seeing things that they done. And as I got older, you know, my dad was a West Virginia coal miner, and dad’s words were ‘I don’t want you to ever set foot in the mines.’ And so and then, when he found out what I had chose as a profession, I think he was just as upset,” said Cochran, adding, “...It was just the ability to be able to, and I know people say it all the time, but as I’ve gotten older, and I’ve looked back and seen the difference I’ve made in communities, in people’s lives,  that’s why I do the job. That’s what I wanted and that’s why I do the job,” Cochran said with pride.

For the last 17 years, Sergeant Cochran has been working in Summers County for the Sheriff’s Office leading child abuse and sex crime investigations.  He says with the young victims he encounters, no matter their background, there’s a common obstacle he faces with every case, especially when it comes to the victims of child abuse, “The hardest part is earning their trust. Cause they have no reason to trust nobody. But once you get through and they open up, it’s almost like you can see a change. It’s like a light switch, turn the light on,” Cochran said.  

The 50-year-old McDowell County native says once the light is on for the victims, the rewards are all the evidence he needs to know he made the right career choice, “It’s really a good feeling to see this child moving on, getting past the traumas of the past. And to know that, you know, I made a difference in this kid being able to lay down and go to sleep, well, not just me, the whole team. From me, the prosecutor, the CAC(child advocacy center), that helps with the interviews, it’s a team effort,” Cochran said, adding that team effort is built on the hope he and his team can do more than deliver justice.  Their mission is to break the cycle of violence, “I always hope when I take a kid, or when we take a kid , and, out of that environment, that that ends the cycle. Because a lot of times, child abuse, sex crimes, it’s a cycle. Just like drugs, you, you have a kid start out here, kid gets married, or has children, children’s children’s children, and I’ve always, I always hope, you know, that by doing this with this one kid, you know, I’ve changed, not only that person, to where that they are doing something, but they are children and their children,. Because I’ve, I’m a firm believer that cycles can be broken,” said Cochran.

It’s the continued pursuit of that believe, coupled with a dedication to protecting and serving his community, that makes Sergeant TJ Cochran a WVVA-TV Hometown Hero.