Alabama: Jury deliberates in child sexual abuse case

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CULLMAN — A man accused of sexually abusing a young girl took the witness stand in his Cullman County Circuit Court trial Wednesday.

Bobby A. Runnels, 63, of Gold Ridge, was indicted by grand jury in June 2010 of first-degree sexual abuse of a child less than 12 years old, which is a Class B felony. He submitted a not guilty plea in Judge Greg Nicholas’ courtroom Monday.

Following strong closing arguments from defense attorney Len Brooks and Assistant District Attorney Martha Williams Wednesday afternoon, the jury went into deliberation behind closed doors for almost three hours before being released in recess.

Jury deliberation is scheduled to resume today at 9 a.m.

Runnels maintained his claim of innocence during testimony, and Brooks called eight character witnesses to the stand, with all of them stating that the defendant is an honest man and upstanding citizen.

Runnels is accused of sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl who he and his wife, Nancy, would often babysit at their home on Gold Ridge Road. He was arrested by investigators with the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office in spring of 2010.

During an emotional testimony Tuesday, the alleged victim told the jury that Runnels touched her “in bad spots” while the two were sleeping in the same bed. According to the alleged victim, similar incidents occurred on multiple occasions.

An audio recording submitted into evidence by the state — supplied by the Cullman Child Advocacy Center — Wednesday revealed detailed accusations from the alleged victim stating that Runnels had touched her “in bad spots” and conducted other inappropriate sexual behaviors that occurred while she had been staying at his home.

“I did not do that,” Bobby Runnels said in testimony. “I cut up with (the alleged victim). I would tickle her sometimes and pick at her … But I did not do that.”

Gail Swafford, a therapist at the Child Advocacy Center, said the alleged victim never recanted her accusations during multiple interviews.

Source: The Cullman Times