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Prosecution rests in child molestation trial

POSTED: April 18, 2013 1:18 a.m.

The state concluded its case against a Gainesville man who faces more than 20 counts of child molestation and exploitation charges.

Christopher Thomas Ray, a 31-year-old Gainesville resident, 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.

After a full day of testimony Tuesday, Gwinnett County Police Department Detective Jerrald Leak concluded his testimony Wednesday.

Prosecutors sought further information from Leak on the investigation, which included examination of hundreds of photos from Ray’s cellphone, and interviews of both children and Ray.

A missing child incident on Aug. 30, 2010, initiated the charges against Ray, involving a search and pursuit by both the Gwinnett and Hall county sheriffs offices.

The then-10-year-old boy, one of the alleged molestation victims, was found about 12 hours later at Ray’s home in Hall County.

The defense called its first witness, 25-year-old Josh Hunt, a former roommate of Ray. Jurors and Hunt watched his 30-minute interview with lead investigator Richard Trinkwalder from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office two years ago, shortly after Ray’s arrest.

Ray is represented by Brett Willis, senior attorney at the public defender’s office, and co-counselor Megan Hughes.

Hunt testified that Ray’s relationship with the alleged victims and purchases he made for them was “like a Dad would to a kid, from my point of view,” he said.

Hunt’s role with regard to Ray’s prescription drug abuse, and accusations that he gave drugs to the alleged victims, was another focus for the prosecution.

Assistant district attorneys Wanda Vance and Kelly Robertson are prosecuting for the state.

Hunt said he traded pills with Ray — “mostly different types of painkillers.”

Vance repeatedly asked Hunt why he sold Ray the drugs knowing he might have been giving them to the kids.

Hunt had warned Ray in text messages not to give pills to children, and was unaware, he said, if Ray was kidding with reference to giving the boys the illegal prescription narcotics.

Another theme in the day’s testimony was the legality of “character references” in testimony. Bonnie Oliver, presiding Superior Court judge, ruled that the character references to the accused and witnesses, which included arrest histories, could be brought up.

Daniel Ray, younger brother of the defendant, testified that he had seen multiple people use Ray’s computer.

Ray also faces charges related to possession of child pornography found by investigators in hidden files on his desktop computer.

Later called by the defense were case workers from the Georgia Division of Children and Family Services, as well as the foster mom of the children.

The two boys were taken from their mother’s custody because of lack of supervision in the immediate aftermath of the kidnapping incident.

The older alleged victim asked, the foster mom said, if he was “one step closer to going home because of the statement that he made” regarding molestation by Ray.

“I told him ‘No,’” she said. “He was not taken from his mother because he was molested, but because of lack of supervision.”

She testified that the then-12-year-old seemed troubled with being sent home, not hopeful.

One of the lingering questions in the trial is the matter of testimony from an out-of-state witness and minor.

The prosecution expressed concern with a Skype interview with the older brother of the alleged victims, arguing that crucial observations, such as his demeanor, might not be conveyed in a video testimony.

Due to jury schedules, the case will not continue today and Friday, but will reconvene Monday at 9 a.m. for its expected conclusion.


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