Opening arguments began on Tuesday in the prosecution of a Hall County man charged with aggravated child molestation and sexual exploitation of children.
Christopher Thomas Ray, 31, has pleaded not guilty to all counts. He is charged with seven counts of aggravated child molestation, six counts of child molestation, one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes, one count of possession of Lorazapam (a tranquilizer) with intent to distribute, one count of attempt to violate the Georgia controlled substances act and 10 counts of sexual exploitation of children.
The missing child incident on Aug. 30, 2010, that initiated the charges against Ray involved a search and pursuit by both the Gwinnett and Hall county sheriff’s offices.
The 10-year-old boy, one of the alleged molestation victims, was found about 12 hours later at Ray’s home in Hall County.
The prosecution, in its opening arguments before the jury, said that Ray’s interaction with the victims, two brothers now aged 13 and 15, were not only sexually deviant, but part of a full-on inappropriate romantic relationship between adult and child.
Leading arguments for the state, Wanda Vance framed the case for jurors by recounting the timeline of the day in 2010 when the victim’s mother reported him missing to Gwinnett authorities. Vance detailed what the anticipated state’s witnesses would say to prove Ray’s guilt, including testimony from victims and investigators.
Printed and blown up for jurors were pictures of what Vance explained was found at Ray’s house: the words “Place where you feel good,” written on the headboard of Ray’s bed.
“Ray said he didn’t give them things, they had to earn them,” Vance said. “This is the bedroom where (the boy) earned those things.”
Brett Willis, senior attorney at the public defender’s office, said that Ray’s relationship with the boys was not sexual, but that he was a lonely man who loved cats and was “like a father to those kids.”
Willis relied heavily on video testimony from the victims in his opening, in which both boys separately denied in interviews that Ray had mistreated or touched them.
He admitted Ray’s lies and denial of knowledge of the missing child’s whereabouts on the day in question, saying that one lie led to another and snowballed out of control. Ray’s judgement, Willis said, was clouded by the influence of a prescription drug addiction caused by work injuries.
The trial will reconvene today at 9 a.m., when the sides will begin to introduce testimony and evidence, including several minutes of condensed sexually explicit material involving children, which was found on a computer that Vance said was knowingly in Ray’s possession and used for sexual purposes with the victims.
Willis said that as the trial unfolds, evidence suggesting that other users had downloaded files on Ray’s computer will emerge.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver told jurors that she expects the trial to go into next week.