The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

February 22, 2013

Jury renders split verdicts in child molestation case

In the end, jurors could not unanimously lend credence to more than one of James A. Terry’s four young accusers.

After three hours of deliberation, a jury of nine women and three men returned split verdicts Friday at the conclusion of the 64-year-old Terry’s trial in Jasper County Circuit Court in Joplin. They convicted the Webb City man of a single count of first-degree child molestation while acquitting him of two more counts of the same offense and a single count of attempted statutory sodomy.

Three girls, ages 9, 12 and 14, testified at the trial that Terry molested them on multiple occasions between 2006 and 2008 when they ranged in age from 3 to 9 years old. Also, a 21-year-old woman took the witness stand to describe how Terry tried to molest her in a game room of their church when she was about 11.

The jury was willing to convict Terry with respect to the 14-year-old girl’s accusation but not the others. The verdicts leave the defendant facing the prospect of five to 15 years in prison. Circuit Judge Gayle Crane set his sentencing hearing for April 1.

The grandfather of the 9-year-old girl in the case said as he was leaving the courts building after the reading of the verdicts that her family was disappointed.

“We felt like our granddaughter has gone through pure hell for six years now,” he said. “She’s done everything expected of her and more, and a jury of her peers let her down.”

The trial was polarizing and emotionally difficult for all involved. The families of the alleged victims sat on one side of the courtroom, with Terry’s family and supporters on the other.

The 14-year-old girl burst into tears Thursday under cross-examination by defense attorney William Fleischaker. At another point, the young woman who testified against the defendant left the courtroom distraught with a turn of the argument being made by the defense.

Fisher asked jurors during closing arguments if they thought getting up and testifying against Terry had been fun or exciting for any of his accusers. She asked them to recall their demeanors as they testified, “the strength of conviction” the 12-year-old girl had displayed, and the embarrassment the young woman had shown in recounting a secret she acknowledged that she had kept for the better part of seven or eight years before finally telling others, and then only gradually.

“The manner of each girl supports their credibility,” Fisher argued.

She pointed out that the defense offered no motive for four alleged victims to come forward, more or less independently, with remarkably similar accusations of perverse behavior on the part of the defendant. She also emphasized how Terry’s testimony corroborated numerous details of the girls’ accounts.

“The defense agrees with everything the girls say happened right up to the point where it gets him in trouble,” Fisher told the jury.

Fleischaker countered with a story about the evolution of his son’s memory of a laughable moment from childhood involving his own parenting. The point of the story was that his son’s memory of the incident had not improved over time.

“When children can’t remember everything, the holes get filled in with imagination,” he said.

The defense attorney told the jury that he thinks the children in his client’s case actually believe they are telling the truth. The length of time it took for their allegations to come to light suggests that they are more likely distortions of what actually happened, he said.

What the girls remember, or think happened, doesn’t make sense, Fleischaker said. For instance, he pointed out how “the cave” beneath the Praying Hands, where the youngest girl said she was molested, did not seem suited for that purpose since it was covered with jagged rocks and offered no place to sit or get comfortable with a victim, he said.

Fleischaker also emphasized how Terry has two daughters of his own and how his lifelong enjoyment of children should not be turned into something sinister.

“If wanting to spend time with children is evidence of being a child molester, then God help us all,” he told the jury.

Text Only
Crime & Courts
  • Six people hurt in traffic crash near Frontenac

    Six people were injured in a six-vehicle crash at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday at the junction of highways 69 and 160, one mile north of Frontenac, Kan., according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.

    April 17, 2014

  • Elementary school locked down briefly after shots reported

    GOODMAN, Mo. — Goodman Elementary School was locked down for a time on Wednesday after the McDonald County Sheriff’s office received a report of shots fired at a residence in the city.

    April 17, 2014

  • Joplin woman found dead; probe under way

    Joplin police were looking into the death of a 28-year-old woman Wednesday afternoon at a home in the 2400 block of South Connor Avenue.

    April 16, 2014

  • Young Joplin woman discovered deceased

    Joplin police are looking into the death of a 28-year-old woman inside her home in the 2400 block of South Connor Avenue.

    April 16, 2014

  • Several injured in pileup near Frontenac

    A multiple-vehicle accident today north of Frontenac has sent several people to the hospital with injuries, according to the Crawford County sheriff.

    April 16, 2014

  • Marionville man hurt in accident in Barry County

    A Marionville man suffered serious injuries in a single-vehicle accident at 11:14 a.m. Monday on U.S. Highway 60, two miles east of Monett in Barry County, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

    April 16, 2014

  • Fire forces man to jump from balcony

    A Joplin resident was forced to jump from an upstairs balcony when his home caught fire Monday night after an explosion.

    April 16, 2014

  • Shooter in Joplin murder sentenced to life in prison

    The teen convicted of being the triggerman in the murder of Jacob Wages was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole. At a hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court in Joplin, Circuit Judge Gayle Crane followed a jury’s recommendations in assessing Daniel D. Hartman, 18, two life sentences on convictions for second-degree murder and armed criminal action, and 15 years on a conviction for burglary.

    April 15, 2014

  • Ex-Jasper teacher’s aide accused of sexual contact with student

    A former teacher’s aide at Jasper High School has been charged with having sexual relations with a 16-year-old student and is being investigated for possible sexual contact with other boys at the school. Janice L. Rusk, 43, was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree statutory rape and second-degree statutory sodomy following investigations by school officials and law enforcement.

    April 15, 2014

  • Suspect in assault on officer apprehended in Texas

    The U.S. Marshals Service caught up with a suspect in Texas who was wanted in an assault on a Seneca police officer and alleged probation violations in Arkansas. Cory A. Rantz, 25, is being held in Collin County north of Dallas on warrants issued in Missouri and Arkansas. Federal marshals reportedly located the fugitive at a strip mall in Texas on Monday afternoon and took him into custody.

    April 15, 2014

Local News

The Supreme Court may take up a challenge to an Ohio law that bars false statements about political candidates during a campaign. Do you think false accusations made in the heat of an election should be punished as a crime?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
NDN Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge