Scott Shelby presented a gun to a young boy and told him how to play Russian roulette, but the boy refused, according to comments in court Tuesday, June 21.
“It was only after he refused and the defendant left that he checked the gun and noticed that there were multiple bullets in it, not just one,” Assistant District Attorney Harold Buckler said. “You’re going to hear testimony that the defendant told these kids to kill themselves, told them that was the only way out.”
The jury heard opening statements and the first witnesses in the trial for Shelby, 47, who faces charges of aggravated child molestation, child molestation and first-degree child cruelty concerning four children in 2017-2018.
Shelby was not the children’s biological father but was caring for them.
Buckler said this was not a case of simply physical or sexual abuse but “child torture.”
“He liked to see us hurt,” Buckler said in his summary of the children’s comments to a forensic interviewer.
The prosecutor, repeatedly pointing at Shelby, described the defendant as “a man who did everything he could to hurt, to destroy these children.”
Buckler clarified multiple times that there is no law against corporal punishment of children, but the prosecutor elaborated on the girl’s outcry of being beaten about her genitals with a belt after undressing.
Shelby was charged with two counts of aggravated child molestation, four counts of child molestation and four counts of first-degree child cruelty. The indictment alleges Shelby forced the children to perform sex acts on one another.
He faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted on the most serious charges.
Defense attorney Kyle Denslow implored the jury to separate stories from the truth, painting his client as a man overburdened caring for four children.
“Pay attention to at what time these things are being said and what people are saying,” Denslow said.
Denslow said Shelby would work his retail job and come home, as he lacked much education or know-how on how to manage his money or raise a child. He received a $750,000 inheritance after his father died, his attorney said.
In his opening statement, Buckler said there came a time when the children’s biological parents could no longer adequately care for them.
The defense told the jury that when the four children arrived in Shelby’s care, they already knew too much about sex and were performing sexual acts on one another.
Denslow discussed how Shelby took the children to the pediatrician and to therapy. He said the jury would hear from Shelby’s mother, who he called “almost every night for over a year” asking for help.
“What am I supposed to do? I’m going for help and I’m not getting any,” Denslow said, describing the conversation between his client and his mother. “What am I supposed to do? I’m in over my head. Help me with these kids.”
During his opening statement, Buckler dumped a bag filled with zipties onto the prosecution’s table, which were allegedly used to tie up the children. The prosecutor showed pictures of a child’s arms with ligature marks.
Buckler said one child is expected to testify about how Shelby told him he hated him and that the child ruined his life. Buckler said one of the children messaged their biological mother about the abuse.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office said a relative of the children notified the Division of Family and Children Services, who then contacted law enforcement.
When the children were being removed from the home and driven away, one girl screamed out, “We’re free,” Buckler said.
Shelby’s then wife, Rebecca Nguyen, was charged with four counts of second-degree child cruelty for not reporting that the children were being abused, according to the indictment.