Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

November 14, 2012

Testimony begins in Roe sex abuse trial

By Leeann Akers - Managing Editor
Journal-Times

Nov. 14, 2012 — Testimony began Friday morning in the trial of Jeffery Wayne Roe, 53, of Olive Hill.

Roe was indicted in December 2011 for sexual crimes he allegedly committed against a minor less than 12 years of age.

He faces charges of first degree sexual abuse, a Class C felony, and first degree sodomy, a Class A felony. If convicted on both charges, Roe would face 20 years to life in prison.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Conn told a jury of 10 women and two men that Roe is accused of committing crimes against a family member that was between eight and nine years old in 2006, when the crimes allegedly occurred.

“This case is one person’s word against another’s,” Conn said. “The only evidence in this case is the testimony of the child making the accusations.”

Conn said during opening statements that the alleged incidents, both those listed on the indictments and others for which Roe has not been indicted, stopped when the child was about 10 years old.

However, Conn said, in October of 2011 Roe allegedly offered to purchase a cell phone for the juvenile in exchange for sex.

The girl told someone at school about the alleged incident, which led to an interview with a social worker and a Kentucky State Police detective.

The alleged victim of abuse was the first to take the witness stand on Friday. The 14-year-old is currently living in foster care and said when Roe propositioned her in September of 2011, she knew she had to tell.

“I had been asking for a cell phone, because I hated to be secluded from everyone with no way to talk to people,” the girl said. “I was surprised when he (Roe) brought up the phone, because he always told me ‘no’ before. I left when he touched himself between his legs and said, ‘let’s go to bed’.”

The girl testified that she told her mother about the incident and, although she was supportive at first, nothing changed.

“I went to school the next day and told my friend about it,” the girl said. “I knew I had to tell because I didn’t want to go through all that again.”

The alleged victim said that Roe had touched her inappropriately many times when she was between eight and 10 years old, which she told social services and Kentucky State Police.

The girl alleged that Roe not only touched her with his hand, but also with his mouth and penis, which led to the sexual abuse and sodomy charges.

“He never brought up me not telling anyone, he would just do things and I guess he assumed I wouldn’t tell,” the girl said. “For a few years it was a constant thing. Sometimes it would stop for a few days, and I would think it was over, but it wasn’t.”

The girl had difficulty on the stand discussing what allegedly happened to her, but explained why it took several years for her to tell someone about the alleged abuse.

“When you’re a little kid and your dad does something, you don’t want to see your dad in trouble,” she said.

When Conn asked if she blamed herself, she began nodding yes before breaking into silent tears.

The alleged victim was not home on Jan. 6 when Roe was arrested. She said that although he was not supposed to be near her or her younger siblings, Roe would often come to the house and even lived in a camper near the home.

Carrie Davis, who is with the Department of Community Based Services, said that all of the children have now been removed from the Roe home.

Hope’s Place counselor Jenny Kelly testified that she interviewed the alleged victim on Oct. 4, 2011.

Defense attorney James Osborne spent some time asking questions about the incident connected to the sodomy allegations.

Although the alleged victim testified that the incident happened when she and Roe were playing a game, according to Kelly, she made no mention of the game during the Hope’s Place interview.

Trooper Matt Rydner and Trooper Jack Hedges testified about Roe’s arrest and the investigation into the allegations.

Both said that an extension cord ran from the home of the victim to the camper where Roe was living between his indictment in December and his arrest on Jan. 6.

“Roe didn’t react to the allegations as if they were serious,” Hedges said about his initial interview with Roe. “He came forward with the fact that he had an argument with his wife about the allegations but he denied that the allegations were true.”

The defense requested a motion for a directed verdict when the prosecution had called all of its witnesses.

“The Commonwealth doesn’t have any evidence to prove the sodomy charge,” Osborne said.

However, Circuit Judge Rebecca Phillips said that the evidence substantiates the charge and the testimony was sufficient to get the charges to the jury, overruling the motion.

The first witness for the defense was Roe’s son, Michael, who testified that he has visited with his father in December of 2011 in the camper where he had been hiding from authorities. Michael Roe also testified that the camper where the sodomy allegedly took place was not purchased until 2007 which is after the incident supposedly took place.

Debbie Thompson, who has been with Roe for 18 years, was the last witness of the day. She told the jury she was afraid to testify and spent the entire time on the stand in tears.

“I was told that I might lose permanent custody of my kids if I testified on behalf of Jeff,” Thompson said.

Thompson testified that the alleged victim told her that Roe had offered to buy her a cell phone, but not about his alleged proposal of the gift in exchange for sex.

According to case notes by Trooper Hedges, Thompson first claimed the child did not tell her about the cell phone on Sept. 30, but then told him a few minutes later that an argument between Roe and herself was about his propositioning the child in exchange for a phone.

Thompson said she spent six months in jail for not following a court order to keep Roe away from the children.

She claimed she had no idea Roe was living in the camper so close to her home. Before being dismissed from the stand, Thompson began to weep.

“He said he didn’t do anything,” Thompson said. “I don’t know who to believe. I am still so confused.”

Both parties agreed that the final witness would be heard Wednesday morning. The trial will resume at 10:30 a.m. and Judge Phillips said she hopes that jury deliberation could begin shortly after lunch.

Leeann Akers can be reached at lakers@journal-times.com or by phone at 474-5101.