BREAKING: Natrona County Man Found Guilty in Sex Abuse Case
A jury took roughly two hours Wednesday to find a Natrona County man guilty of all six counts charged against him in a child sex abuse case.
Douglas Clayton Jones stands convicted of three counts of second-degree sexual abuse of minor and three counts of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Combined, the charges carry a maximum penalty of 105 years imprisonment.
Natrona County District Court Judge Thomas Sullins ordered Jones jailed pending sentencing. The jury of 10 women and two men entered the courtroom for the reading of the verdict at 1:30 p.m.
Wednesday morning saw closing arguments from both Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri and Jones's public defender, Joseph Cole.
Taheri, in his statement to the jury, emphasized that the three victims in the case -- girls who are now seven, eight and 10 years old, respectively -- told similar stories about the alleged abuse. Taheri contended, in response to Cole's previous suggestions that the allegations may have been fabricated, that the victims had neither the means nor the motive to do so.
The three victims and their mothers each testified that they held no animosity toward Jones, and had no reason to want him imprisoned. The jury heard testimony that the victims' mothers met with Jones's wife after each victim disclosed that Jones had touched them, and the women agreed not to report the allegations to authorities immediately.
One victim's mother testified Monday that she wanted to investigate the allegations herself and only involve police once she was confident that formal charges against Jones were warranted.
Cole told the jury that the first victim to come forward may have done so because she resented Jones. Earlier on the day the victim disclosed the abuse to her mother, Jones testified Tuesday, Jones had reprimanded the victim for scratching herself in front of other people. Cole presented that information as a possible reason for that particular victim to have lied.
Cole also alluded to possible coaching of the other two victims by their mother, but Taheri referred to Tuesday's testimony from an expert witness who said the victims were too old to have been subject to "suggestibility" by their mothers.
"Sometimes these things happen, and the person generally is not someone you would suspect, and it makes it that much harder," Taheri said in his closing argument.
Cole had also been critical of the police investigation and the forensic interviews of the three victims at the Children's Advocacy Project.
"If the disclosure has a surface viability, the CAP interviewer is satisfied," Cole told the jury, adding that forensic interviewers do not try to verify claims made by children in such interviews.
Cole said the idea that children don't lie in forensic interviews is "false, lazy thinking."
"The girls never talked to each other before the CAP interview," Taheri told jurors. "Yet, they all went in and described the same thing."
"They wouldn't be able to go to the CAP center and coincidentally say the same thing," Taheri emphasized.
Responding to Cole's criticism of the detective assigned to the case, Taheri said, "There is no such thing as a perfect investigation."
Cole, in his closing, also pointed to the difficulty of proving that something did not happen. The jury retired to deliberate at 11:10 a.m. Wednesday.
Following the reading of the verdict, Cole asked that the jury be polled. Each juror, when asked, said they agreed with the verdict of conviction on each count, which must be unanimous in criminal cases in Wyoming.