LaGRANGE — Opening statements began Tuesday in the jury trial of a LaGrange man accused of molesting a juvenile.
Earnest D. Reese, 55, of Whitesville Road, was arrested in LaGrange on July 19 and charged with aggravated child molestation, child molestation and incest. He was indicted by a grand jury in September and released from the Troup County jail on bond on Oct. 15, according to court and jail records.
Represented by LaGrange-based defense attorney Ken Gordon, Reese denies the charges and a jury was selected for his trial Monday and Tuesday in Troup County Superior Court.
Lynda Caldwell, a senior assistant district attorney with the Coweta Judicial Circuit, is prosecuting the case along with Troup County Sheriff’s Investigator Shelly Downs.
Caldwell alleges Reese sexually assaulted a minor at a home he was sharing with another family member sometime between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2012. In her opening statement, Caldwell told told jurors Reese threatened to kill the alleged victim’s mother if the child ever told anyone about the supposed incident.
The child didn’t make the outcry of victimization for several years, only making the accusation one and a half years ago after another family member made a similar outcry alleging molestation by a different person — not Reese — she said.
During jury selection Tuesday, Caldwell asked jurors if they’d had any negative experiences with law enforcement, and if they would be able to convict Reese on the testimony of the alleged victim, and if they thought they would be able to hear disturbing testimony or graphic evidence.
Gordon, speaking to one of the panels of potential jurors, asked if any of them knew someone who had been falsely accused of a crime, or someone accused of child molestation. Pointedly, he asked each juror one by one how he or she tells when a child is lying.
In his opening statement, Gordon said that Reese was the victim of a scheme by the alleged victim’s mother, who had been threatened with the loss of custody of her children because she was in a supposedly abusive relationship with a man who’d previously had his own children taken by the state.
He refuted the state’s opening statement and said Reese never slept in the same bed as the alleged victim. He noted the child’s testimony was not consistent with known facts, such as a physical description of the home where the crime is alleged to have occurred.
The jury was dismissed Tuesday and ordered to return this morning; the court was out of session Wednesday because Chief Superior Court Judge A. Quillian Baldwin, who presides over the case, took a leave of absence.
If convicted, Reese could face up to life in prison.
Read LaGrange Daily News online and in print for updates on this trial.
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached by calling 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.