The state concluded its case today against a Stanley minister accused of aggravated rape of an 11-year-old girl last year.
The defense will present its witnesses Wednesday. Many of those are expected to either be character witnesses or witnesses who will testify that the alleged victim was not telling the truth.
The day ended on an emotional note as several members of the jury, made up of nine women and three men, appeared moved as a father tried to explain the blow to his life as he tried to sort out details of sexual abuse allegations his daughter aimed at his father.
One female juror on the front row pulled a Kleenex from her purse and another made a quick swipe to her eye as Dusty Warren admitted he initially dismissed his daughter’s allegations because there wasn’t a question in his mind that his father, Burcham Paul Warren, could have done such a thing.
Paul Warren was more than Dusty Warren’s father but also his pastor.
The former pastor of South Oak Grove Assembly of God Church is charged with aggravated rape in connection with sexual abuse accusations reported on Sept. 29, 2006. The alleged victim said the sexual contact started after she turned 11 in March 2006 and continued until she reported it to Stanley High teacher Sissy Williams.
If convicted, Paul Warren, 51, faces a mandatory life sentence in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.
Dusty Warren searched for words as he described the agony his family faced and the ripple effect to his father’s ministry. Paul Warren had been pastor of the church since Dusty Warren was in the second grade. Dusty Warren said he loved his father and told of the thousands he has ministered to over the years.
Assistant District Attorney Anna Garcie asked Dusty Warren about his reaction when he first heard of the allegations.
“It ain’t true … There wasn’t a question in my mind something like this happened,” he answered.
Dusty Warren said he questioned his daughter over and over “to try to catch her in a lie.” He told jurors he never did.
“She never changed her story,” Dusty Warren said.
He said he explained the consequences of the allegations to his daughter. He told of the impact it had to his extended family and church members.
Still, Dusty Warren said he tried to maintain a relationship with his father and mother because of his other younger child who was not aware of what was going on. He said he and a brother agreed it would be best if everybody could get along “until this is all over with.”
Until “the two stories meet up,” the conflict will never be resolved, he said.
“For me personally, I can only pray the truth will set us free,” said Dusty Warren, who is a youth pastor.
His daughter took the stand earlier in the day but only court officials and jurors were allowed to hear testimony first-hand. District Judge Robert Burgess on Monday granted an oral motion from the defense and a separate request from the state to close the courtroom to spectators.
However, from a small window opening in the courtroom door, the 12-year-old girl, who is identified by name in the courtroom but not by The Times because of her age, could be seen nodding slightly and at times gesturing as she answered questions. She sat at an angle and appeared to not look directly at Paul Warren. A Kleenex was clutched in her right hand.
A state social services employee set the stage Tuesday morning for the girl’s testimony. Mary Bagley, an 18-year investigator with the child protection office, said the girl exhibited the classic behavior for sexual abuse when questioned about allegations of molestation.
Bagley said she conducted her interview with the girl on Sept. 29, 2006, as a courtesy to the DeSoto sheriff’s office, which was leading the investigation. Bagley deduced by the girl’s tone of voice, body language, eye contact and details provided that she was being truthful.
The alleged sexual contact began with Warren tickling the girl with his mustache and his tongue. The girl indicated it included contact with her “private area,” Bagley said. And she also said he touched her anal area with his penis.
Defense attorney Rick Fayard, of Shreveport, hammered DeSoto sheriff’s Cpl. Bobby Simone about his investigation, the lack of additional interviews and absence of DNA evidence linking Paul Warren to the sexual abuse allegations.
Simone said he observed Bagley’s interview with the girl and he noted she was “obviously upset. She was crying.” And she tried to cover herself while talking about the alleged abuse.
Simone explained that he did what he thought was needed to corroborate the girl’s statement. He seized a pair of shorts described by the girl as being worn by Paul Warren on their last sexual contact in September 2006, a laptop computer upon which the girl said she was shown pornography and a white towel that the girl said Paul Warren used to wipe himself after sex.
The towel was positive for Paul Warren’s semen and the DNA of an unknown female, Simone testified.
The laptop, which was purchased by the church, was turned over to Mark Fargerson, a Caddo district attorney’s investigator who specializes in computer-related sex crimes. Fargerson testified that he found 16 pornographic photos dating from May 2006 through July 9, 2006. The photographs of adults engaged in sex are considered legal.
Dusty Warren said it was the pornographic photos and the towel, which he found while searching his father’s office, that confirmed for him that his daughter was telling the truth.
His wife, Heather Warren took the stand before him and told jurors she believed her daughter from the start. “When I saw the look in her face and she started crying, I believed her then. … It was hard to believe because of who it was. It was my father-in-law and that’s something you don’t want to believe.”
“Do you believe her,” asked Garcie.
Answered Heather Warren: “100 percent.”