Wagner found guilty

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 11, 2001

of sodomy, sexual abuse


Staff Writer

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A 47-year-old man was convicted Thursday for the molestation of an 8-year-old girl.

Chester Carl Wagner was found guilty on one count of first-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree sexual abuse after a jury of five women and seven men deliberated only 15 minutes. He was sentenced to life in a state penitentiary by Circuit Judge Gary McAliley.

After handing down the verdict ­ during which Wagner showed no emotion ­ McAliley made few remarks.

"I see how young people are affected the rest of their lives," McAliley said before sentencing Wagner.

Scherryl Harrison, who prosecuted the case, said she was pleased with the verdict.

"I think this is notification to little girls everywhere that people care," Harrison said of the girl she assisted through the trial process.

Harrison said she hopes verdicts like the one that will put Wagner behind bars shows children the system "will do everything we can do protect them" and that it is all right to report such acts.

As a prosecutor, Harrison has seen similar cases, including another such case tried this week, and believes in mandatory sentencing for "something as precious as our children," considering drug offenses have mandatory sentences.

"Her life will never be the same," Harrison said of the victim. "Everything that happens to her from this day on, will be affected by what has been done to her."

That hurt was evident to those in the courtroom as the 9-year-old girl cried on the stand while trying to tell the jury what happened to her.

An Honor Roll student, the soft-spoken child told the jurors about having Wagner touch her "tee tee with his wee wee," and forcing her to perform oral sex while her mother was at church and her siblings played outside.

Using anatomically correct dolls, the girl showed jurors what Wagner did to her.

According to her testimony, which was barely audible in the courtroom, she said Wagner told her to clean up and, then, to brush her teeth. That incident occurred the day prior to her revealing the horrible secret to her mother. The child’s mother testified the molestation occurred approximately between June 2 and Aug. 6, 2000.

"He said if I tell, my Mommy would whoop me," she said when asked why she didn’t tell her mother prior to that date. "I was afraid."

On Aug. 7, 2000, the victim told her mother of a pain around her sex organs. After examining her daughter, she realized something was very wrong.

She asked her daughter if anyone had touched her inappropriately and urged her to say something if someone had hurt her. Eventually, the girl revealed Wagner had sexually abused her.

One day after the abuse was revealed, the young victim was interviewed by Kristi Maddox, the primary child abuse investigator for the Pike County Department of Human Resources, who talked with the "scared" girl and recommended she be examined by Dr. Penny White.

The Montgomery pediatrician examined the girl on Aug. 10, 2000 and found damage that "would indicate something was tried to put in the vagina.

"My impression was sexual abuse with evidence of vaginal penetration," White said. "All I know is that something penetrated of fair size."

She also testified the original act occurred "at least two weeks prior" to being examined by the doctor.

Despite the emotional testimony by the defendant, Wagner maintained he did not molest the girl and said she was lying about what had happened to her.

A truck driver, Wagner said he was never home and could not have sexually abused her.

Wagner plans to appeal the verdict, according to his court-appointed attorney Malcolm McSwean. He has 42 days to appeal.