Testimony begins in Perry molestation case

by Alex McRae

Opening arguments were presented and testimony began Tuesday in Coweta Superior Court in the trial of Matthew James Barrian Perry, who faces multiple counts of child molestation, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, sexual exploitation of children and invasion of privacy.

Jury selection was Monday in the separate trial of Alexander Sean Gerbert, who is charged with child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, sexual battery, incest and sexual exploitation of children.

Superior Court Judge John Simpson is hearing that case, and the prosecution is led by Coweta Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Kevin McMurry, who was set to give opening arguments Tuesday.

The Gerbert case dates back to 2010 and involved two girls, then aged 9 and 15. Authorities opened an investigation after hearing allegations from the 9-year-old girl, executing a search warrant at Gerbert's Coweta County residence only to learn that the suspect had fled the state.

In February 2012, Gerbert was located in Illinois and later extradited to Coweta to face trial. Testimony is expected to begin Tuesday.

Superior Court Judge Quillian Baldwin is presiding in the Perry case. Coweta Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Ray Mayer is lead prosecutor, and Perry is represented by Public Defender Rick Samper.

Tuesday’s proceedings in the Perry case began with Mayer's opening argument. He explained how the case involved two related victims, now ages 18 and 16, who were allegedly molested by Perry. Mayer said the alleged acts occurred over several years and "the victims will tell you what happened."

Mayer said evidence would include "trophies" in the form of photographs of the victims taken on a cell phone allegedly belonging to Perry. Mayer closed by saying, "The evidence will show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did these despicable things and he is guilty."

Defense attorney Samper began his opening argument by reminding the jury to pay as much attention to questions he asked of witnesses during cross examination as they did to responses given during direct examination. He told the jury Mayer would try to portray Perry as an "evil monster” terrorizing the young relatives. Samper insisted that was not the case and told the jury he would show the cell phone photos to be introduced into evidence were accessible to and could have been manipulated by others. Samper said he did not believe the state would be able to prove who took the pictures, where they were taken or when. Mayer's first prosecution witness was Investigator Elaine Jordan of the Coweta County Sheriff's Office. Jordan said she became aware of the case when the victims’ mother arrived at the sheriff's office on May 14, 2012, saying her oldest daughter claimed she had been sexually abused by Perry.

After inverviewing Perry and both alleged victims, Jordan obtained a warrant for Perry's arrest on May 17, 2012. She said the older victim told her the abuse had been going on for "eight or nine years."

The state's next witness was the mother of the alleged victims. She said Perry was very particular about his phone and rarely let others handle it, and then, only under his supervision. "If it was dropped, he went into a rage," she said.

The mother identified both daughters from from photographs in which they were partially or completely naked in a bathroom setting. Two of the photos were close-up shots of female anatomy that included one or more fingers which the witness said were Perry’s. She said the hand was identifiable by the inflamed, swollen cuticles on the fingers caused by Perry’s biting them constantly.

The mother said that on the evening of May 11, 2012, she, Perry and a friend were drinking alcohol. She testified that Perry had to work the next day and went to bed about "9 or 10 o'clock." She said she and the friend continued to drink and talk, and later that night the friend said he believed Perry had inappropriate feelings for the younger daughter.

The mother said her older daughter — who was thought to be asleep — overheard the remark, entered the room and said her mother’s friend didn't know what he was talking about.

A verbal altercation ensued between the girls’ mother and Perry. The mother said early the next morning the oldest daughter said Perry had indeed touched her and at that time, the mother gathered up her two daughters and son and left Perry’s home. The mother reported the accusation to Investigator Jordan on May 14 and on May 17, Perry was arrested and subsequently released on $35,000 bond. During the ensuing investigation, Perry's cell phone was seized and forensically searched. Investigators discovered hundreds of images of pornography, Internet searches and links to pornographic web sites, including some featuring young females.

Based on the new evidence, additional charges were filed against Perry in June 2012.

Under cross examination by Samper, the mother said Perry had contributed to the older girl's school expenses and supplied funds toward making band trips. She said before the May incident there was friction between her and Perry stemming from disagreements over how to handle dating requests from the older daughter. She said Perry did not think the older girl should go on dates "by herself."

Deputy Casey Mullis of the CCSO, a forensic specialist in digital equipment and media, testified next. He said he had performed a forensic search on Perry's phone that revealed pornographic web searches and "a lot" of digital images of a pornographic nature, many of which had been deleted but were able to be recovered using forensic tools available to Mullis.

David Parten, technical director and computer crimes investigator for the Coweta County District Attorney's Office, testified he had reviewed the results of Mullis' findings and reported on images he had reviewed, including almost 300 of a pornographic nature.

Testimony continues today in the Perry case.

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