- Special Sections
Day three of the Aubrey Phillip Childers case continued on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, at the Nolan County Courthouse.
Testimony was heard from three local law enforcement who were involved in the case in the early morning. The jury also saw two video interviews of Mr. Childers with Sweetwater Police Department (SPD) Detective Sam Cunningham, which spanned most of the day.
Mr. Childers is on trail for an incident occurring on or around Aug. 15, 2010, regarding a male-on-male sexual assault which took place around the southwest part of Sweetwater.
First taking the stand was SPD Officer Danny Heine, who discussed his duties as an officer before going into detail of the night in question. He was asked by Mr. Cunningham to assist in the investigation by finding the vehicle where the event took place.
Upon the car being found, which was described as the car of Lonnie McKinney, Mr. Heine examined the car, being previously told that the victim had been assaulted with an object, and found a black long-sleeved shirt and the victim's boxers around 8:30 p.m. the evening of Aug. 15.
District Attorney Ann Reed showed Mr. Heine the pieces of evidence found and then said he contacted Mr. Cunningham, who arrived sometime after to look at the car where they found stains. Two more evidence photos were then submitted--a picture of the back seat of the car with blood stains and a picture of the passenger side of the car.
Mr. Heine stated that he contacted SPD Detective Cornutt and assisted him in collecting samples from the back seat where it was taken to police headquarters to evidence.
Paul Hanneman, Mr. Childers' attorney, asked Mr. Heine--who was the first person to locate the car--what exactly he was looking for when searching inside the car. Mr. Heine stated that he wasn't looking for anything in particular but for any evidence.
However, he was told that the victim was possibly assaulted with an object because of preliminary evidence results. Mr. Heine eventually found the boxers and black shirt underneath the car and was shown by the defense the photo of the shirt found, which was presented as evidence and published to the nine-woman, three-man jury.
Next on the stand was SPD Lieutenant Randy Hanes. Upon explaining his duties in his respective position--namely regarding evidence and the steps and purposes of gaining evidence, the state showed him photos of the victim's shirt, boxers and shorts, along with the black top found and the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) kit.
Mr. Hanes stated that he took the SANE kit to the Texas Department of Safety (DPS) Lab in Lubbock, which included the victim's clothing as well as buckle swabs. The defense had no questions for Mr. Hanes.
The final witness of the day was SPD Detective Sam Cunningham. He stated that he was called into work on the morning of Aug. 15, 2010 on a sexual assault case and went to Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital. Arriving at the hospital, he met with the victim to obtain his account and then called the SANE nurse in Abilene to prepare them for the victim's exam.
Mr. Cunningham noted that the victim's demeanor encompassed a wide range of emotions like frustration, slight depression and anger, and was shown photos of the victim's clothing and shoes. He then took the victim to Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, where he waited for the victim in the waiting room during the exam.
The victim, according to Mr. Cunningham, was still upset following the SANE exam. When he returned to Sweetwater, Mr. Cunningham took the evidence back to police headquarters to the evidence locker. Later that evening, he joined Mr. Heine at the location of the incident where Mr. Cunningham took photos of the car from different angles.
Mr. Cunningham continued his investigation by talking to people and witnesses who were at Club Phoenix, known as the Cafe, before the event occurred to determine who was the last person to see the victim. During his investigation, the evidence had been taken to the DPS lab for testing. He also interviewed the victim about the night in question and received a handwritten statement from him.
Out of over 10 witnesses he spoke to, Mr. Cunningham was able to deduce the potential suspects, meeting with three individuals who turned up as not being involved. On Sept. 11, 2010, Mr. Cunningham finally met with Mr. Childers for the first of two interviews at the Nolan County Jail.
During the interview, Mr. Childers was advised of his rights verbally and written, which he agreed to by signature, in order to talk about the case. Mr. Cunningham obtained a written statement about the night in question and also collected a DNA sample from Mr. Childers for comparison. The first interview spanned a little over three hours.
A second interview was conducted in October 2010 at the same location (the Nolan County Jail), where Mr. Childers once again waived his rights. Both interviews were recorded and shortly before 10 a.m., the first interview was to be shown in the courtroom. However, unforeseen technical difficulties halted the viewing of the first interview until almost 10:45 a.m.
Half of the video was shown before the lunchtime recess; the other half was shown beginning around 1:15 p.m. and--including a brief intermission--concluded around 4 p.m.
In the video, the night in question was broken down in detail in order for Mr. Childers to give his account. He stated that the victim propositioned him for oral and anal sex, noting that the acts were consensual.
Mr. Cunningham told him about the evidence found and the SANE nurse's preliminary findings Numerous times in the video, he asked for Mr. Childers to tell him the truth in order to give him a fair trial.
Mr. Childers stated throughout the video that he feared telling everything that happened for fear of rumors--which were already circling around town, as well as how his friends and family would react and respond to the information because of being gay and his sexual background.
They also discussed the possible legal scenarios as a result of the current case and Mr. Childers wrote a five page statement which he submitted to Mr. Cunningham.
Mr. Cunningham took the stand briefly to discuss the second video interview from Oct. 8, 2010, following preliminary lab results. The second video was played starting near 4:20 p.m., in which Mr. Cunningham informed Mr. Childers that out of three possible swabs, his DNA was found only on the anal swab of the victim.
The shirt that was found, however, only had Mr. Childers' DNA, which was the same case for the victim's boxers.
Mr. Cunningham stated that the victim's statements were making sense. And, because the physical evidence doesn't lie, he urged Mr. Childers to be completely honest with him on the matter.
Mr. Childers still insisted that the sex between him and the victim was consensual because he was not passed out during the act. Mr. Cunningham also explained how different factors play into the case (people, places, the victim, DNA, etc.).
Mr. Cunningham reviewed the night in question with Mr. Childers, particularly the incident between him and the victim. Discussion ensued on whether the incident went further than anticipated, if alcohol consumption played a role, and various legal scenarios affecting Mr. Childers, including the pending trial.
Mr. Cunningham reassured Mr. Childers that he was taking all the steps to ensure him a fair trial through his thorough investigation, stating that Mr. Childers had been very cooperative during the matter and would inform the District Attorney's office.
The viewing of the second interview concluded shortly after 5:30 p.m., in which presiding judge Glen Harrison called the court to recess for the day. Testimony will continue throughout the day on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011 beginning at 9 a.m.