Investigators and police officers testified Wednesday in Hall County Superior Court at the trial of a Gainesville man charged with more than 20 counts of child sex crimes and controlled substance violations.
Christopher Thomas Ray, 31, pleaded not guilty to all charges against the alleged victims who were brothers aged 10 and 12 at the time. 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 state had police recount the initial Aug. 30 and 31 incident to jurors. The child’s mother reported her then 10-year-old missing in Gwinnett County. The mother, who later lost custody of the children for neglect, reported to authorities that she believed Ray had taken her son, an acquaintance and frequent baby sitter in her absence.
The state called first-responding deputies from both the Hall and Gwinnett county sheriff’s offices to testify to the day’s events and establish a firm timeline and documentation of the alleged kidnapping that kick-started the molestation investigation.
The state’s first witness was Richard Trinkwalder from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. Trinkwalder led the investigation upon taking the case over from Gwinnett authorities, who had initially managed the missing child case.
Ray’s attorney Brett Willis, a senior attorney at the public defender’s office, did not dispute the sequence of events, but raised questions about the subsequent criminal investigation into molestation that went into March 2011.
Trinkwalder, who sat on the stand for the majority of the day’s testimony, said that the boy’s “rushed” declaration “Chris never touched me” when he was found at Ray’s house on Aug. 31 immediately set off alarms.
Willis asked if Trinkwalder thought that statement “suggests the concern of molestation,” to which Trinkwalder replied affirmatively.
“It’s a potential conclusion of, ‘Chris never touched me,’” he said.
Willis questioned in that context the lack of more aggressive pursuit of DNA evidence.
“Is there DNA evidence in this case as relates to the facts the jurors are here for?” Willis asked Trinkwalder, who said there was not.
At one point during the sometimes terse cross-examination, Trinkwalder accused Willis of “minimizing what I’m trying to explain.”
“The scope of my search warrant was kidnapping and false imprisonment. This turns out to be a whole lot more than those crimes,” Trinkwalder said. “You take in what you can while you’re there.
But the scope of the search warrant was beyond taking in DNA evidence and such. When we found (the boy), he wasn’t hurt, injured or bleeding. There wasn’t any specific need at that time.”
Trinkwalder said the initial attempt to collect DNA evidence was an alternative light source that was brought to Ray’s house, but from his understanding, the presence of cat urine made attempts fruitless.
Much of the day’s questioning focused on a photo submitted by the state from Ray’s cellphone and uploaded to his computer. In the close-up shot that cuts off the subjects’ eyes, an adult male — presumably Ray based on beard stubble patterns — and the younger victim have their lips locked.
While Ray’s defense does not dispute the identification of Ray as the subject of the close-up shot, Willis does dispute if Ray took the picture, or if he was awake.
It won’t be the last time that picture is discussed, as it is “the one physical piece of evidence that presents a connection to Ray,” Willis noted during cross-examination of Trinkwalder.
The state also played two videos of the alleged victim. In one, the younger boy dances and gyrates in the back seat of Ray’s car in a way that could be interpreted as sexually suggestive.
The jury appeared to have a more passive reaction to the other video, where the same boy was sucking on the top of a water bottle, with some gulps of water in between, and then sucking his thumb. The prosecution says the video, taken on Ray’s bed, is sexually suggestive.
There are no photos or videos of explicit sex acts between Ray and either alleged victim, Willis asserted, and Trinkwalder agreed.
There will be explicit evidence introduced, however, for charges pertaining to child pornography found on Ray’s computer.
A condensed 12 minutes will be shown to jurors. The state says Ray knowingly possessed the material and used it for indecent purposes with the alleged victims.
His defense says the porn was in hidden files on his computer, and downloaded by others with access to Ray’s computer.
Willis said that at the time the older victim was interviewed, he already knew about the child porn charges against Ray.
“‘They already found all the pornography that he had,’” Willis quoted the boy as telling police from recorded interviews.
He questioned if Trinkwalder knew how the child had found out about the charges.
“I can’t control what another agency does in their investigation, I can only control mine,” Trinkwalder said.
The electronic records and access to Ray’s computer, cellphone and laptop play a key role in the case, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s findings, and follow-up to the findings, were referenced heavily by both sides and Trinkwalder.
President Superior Court Judge Bonnie Oliver told the jury to reconvene this morning at 9. The state will open with its fourth witness, a GBI investigator.