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Text messages are a focus in child sex case

POSTED: April 16, 2013 12:44 a.m.

Jurors in the child molestation trial of a Gainesville man heard about text message exchanges Monday between the defendant and the then-10-year-old boy he is accused of molesting.

Detective Jerrald Leak, with the Gwinnett County Police Department, took the stand Monday afternoon, reading the messages. He was the lead investigator in an August 2010 kidnapping case involving the boy and Christopher Thomas Ray, 31.

Leak testified the 10-year-old was found at Ray’s house, even as Ray was sending messages to family members that suggested he didn’t know where the boy was.

Ray is charged with more than 20 counts of child sex crimes, in addition to charges of controlled substance violations. Ray pleaded not guilty to all charges involving the alleged victims, who were brothers aged 10 and 12 at the time.

The text messages read in court were mostly between Ray and the younger boy. The text messages started in July of 2010 and contained many expressions of endearment between the defendant and boy. The 10-year-old would text pictures of kisses to Ray and called him “daddy.”

A text back on one occasion, from what Leak identified as Ray’s cellphone, said the boy didn’t have to call him “daddy,” but “it means a lot to me.”

The cellphone information from both the boy and Ray showed the two texting “ly” or “lyt,” to each other, which the detective testified meant “love you” and “love you too.”

Leak also read text messages identified as between Ray and another man. The prosecution alleges Ray was seeking to buy prescription drugs, including oxycodone, for himself and the victims. Ray also faces one count of possession of Lorazapam, a tranquilizer, with intent to distribute and one count of attempt to violate the Georgia controlled substances act.

Leak also testified that Ray had pictures of the 10-year-old on his phone when they downloaded the cellphone data. In the pictures, the 10-year-old was shown in the shower, although the photos were not explicit. There were also videos of the boy in bed fully dressed.

Psychologist Jada Tidwell, who provided treatment to the boys, testified about their behaviors after the incident.

The boys went into foster care after the August 2010 incident.

Tidwell said the younger boy was quick to get angry, fidgeted and blamed himself, symptoms often seen in sexual abuse cases. The older boy called himself stupid for allowing the incident to happen, she said.

Both victims demonstrated a need for control, and the older boy dreamed the defendant took him or others close to him.

Brett Willis, senior attorney at the public defender’s office, asked Tidwell about comments both boys made about the alleged abuse, including a statement the then-12-year-old made that he would not be able to go home if he said he had been abused. Both children said they had been abused in February 2011, but denied molestation before then. Tidwell said the younger boy felt that when he said he had been abused, he would not be able to go home. The 10-year-old made the admission by accident, she said. He also said he didn’t remember some of the details.

“He said ‘Chris is going to go (to jail) for a long time due to kidnapping and abuse,’” Tidwell said. “I said ‘What abuse?’”

Willis asked the therapist if it made sense to her that the older boy laughed when he admitted he had been abused. She said the boy suffered from severe anxiety and that can cause nervous laughter.

Prosecutors objected several times, saying the defense was trying to get testimony from the psychologist that included what people other than the children had told her.

The defense made a motion for a mistrial, on the basis, Willis said, that Tidwell opined about the truth of the victims’ statements. The motion was denied by presiding Judge Bonnie Oliver.

Testimony continues today.


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