Man found guilty on two of four counts in sex case
by Wes Mayer
Terry Lee Sherman, the 18-year-old Senoia man accused of kidnapping and holding a 10-year-old girl against her will and then molesting and attempting to rape her, was found guilty on two of the four counts Wednesday.
Early Wednesday, Coweta Assistant District Attorney Kevin McMurry, who prosecuted the case, and Public Defender Charles H. Cauble, who defended Sherman, gave their closing arguments. Superior Court Judge Emory Palmer then read the jury the charges for all four counts, and the jury went into deliberation around 11:30 a.m.
After deliberating for around three hours Wednesday, the jury found Sherman guilty of child molestation and criminal attempt to commit rape, and they found him not guilty of kidnapping or false imprisonment. With the guilty verdict, Palmer sentenced Sherman to 20 years, with 15 to serve in prison for the count of child molestation, and 10 years in prison to run concurrently for the count of criminal attempt to commit rape.
“We are very grateful for the efforts of the jury and the verdict they rendered, which gives the victim justice in this case,” McMurry said. “We are also grateful for the work done by the Senoia Police Department.”
Sherman was arrested on Dec. 3, 2013, after he turned himself in to the Senoia Police Department. Earlier that day, Sherman’s father came home, walked in to find Sherman in the home shirtless and zipping up his pants, and he noticed a girl’s jacket on the couch. Suspicious something was going on, Sherman’s father searched the home and found the victim in the corner of the garage, naked below the waist and covering herself. Sherman’s father called 911 to report his son, and Sherman fled the scene. Sherman turned himself in later that night.
The investigation was led by Lt. Jason Ercole with the Senoia Police Department, but because Ercole does not have the special training to interview juveniles, Sgt. Michelle Worden interviewed the victim. During this, the victim said she was walking in front of Sherman’s home and he told her to come inside. She denied him, so Sherman, who was on the porch, jumped down and chased after her. She fled, but he eventually caught her by the arm and threw her over his shoulder, she told authorities.
The victim said she kicked and screamed for him to put her down, but he carried her back to his home, threw her on the couch inside, locked the front door, took her into a bedroom, pulled down her pants and underwear – and that was when Sherman’s father walked home.
The victim said Sherman told her to hide, so she ran into the garage and hid in the corner. That was where Sherman’s father found her.
On Tuesday, the victim, who is now 11, and Sherman’s father were called to the stand by McMurry to tell the jury about the incident. The call between Sherman’s father and the 911 operator was also replayed for the jury.
Cauble focused on a few small details during the trial in an attempt to give the jury reasonable doubt – mostly, the jacket Sherman’s father saw when he walked in. When Cauble asked the victim about the jacket, she said Sherman yanked it off her after he threw her down on the couch and locked the front door. However, during the victim’s interview with Sgt. Worden, she said she took the jacket off because she was hot.
Cauble also asked Sherman’s father about the incident, and he said his first impression was that it was a consensual encounter. When he walked into the garage, he initially walked past the victim, and she didn’t call out to him. When he did see her, she looked scared like she had been caught, he told Cauble.
Ercole was also called by McMurry to discuss his investigation and interviews with both Sherman and his father. Ercole interviewed Sherman on two occasions, and both interviews were played for the jury. During these interviews, when Sherman heard the accusations, he was irate and strongly denied everything with numerous expletives and foul language. Sherman also continuously asked to be tested, but Ercole told him that authorities already knew he didn’t have sex with the victim, but that does not mean his actions were not child molestation.
Ercole interviewed Sherman a second time to ask about the condom wrapper that authorities found on a table in the living room – a wrapper Sherman’s father said he did not see before he left that morning. Sherman said this was in his pants pocket from the night before, and he forgot to throw it away. The condom itself was not found by authorities.
Cauble asked Ercole if he was able to talk to any witnesses along the street, and Ercole said he went to five of the homes. Ercole was not able to speak to one of the homeowners. Three of the homeowners said they were not at home at the time of the incident, and the fifth said he did not see or hear anything about Sherman chasing and kidnapping the victim.
After the state rested, Cauble called Sgt. Worden to the stand in order to discuss the interviews with the victim, which were also played for the jury. During these interviews the victim told Worden she took the jacket off because she was hot.
Sherman chose to not testify in his own defense.
Following closing arguments Wednesday, the jury found Sherman not guilty of the kidnapping or false imprisonment. However, because the victim was a juvenile and Sherman was an adult, he was found guilty of child molestation and the criminal attempt to commit rape.
“We know he didn’t force her into the house,” Cauble said, “and we are relieved the jury saw it that way. But this is just a sad case for everybody. We vigorously denied the kidnapping, but she was 10 and he was 18.”