(Editor’s note: This story contains graphic information that readers could find objectionable.)
A nurse who examined a suspected child sexual abuse victim told jury members on Wednesday what she saw on the 8-year-old was “consistent with” the girl’s account of how she was allegedly molested by a relative.
The nurse, Lynn Cotellese, was called to testify in Whitfield County Superior Court about the exam for a case in which Rocky Face resident Monte Gale Salyer is accused of molesting the girl. Salyer is also charged with molesting two young girls he befriended at a church in Ringgold several years ago.
The jury in Judge Cindy Morris’ courtroom heard nearly two hours of often tearful testimony from Salyer’s first alleged victim, and they listened to testimony from the woman’s husband and two brothers, as well as a forensic interviewer who took statements from the two younger alleged victims.
Morris for the second straight day denied defense attorney Jim Meaney’s move for a mistrial based on evidence the court allowed, this time from the forensic interviewer whom he said he wasn’t allowed to properly cross-examine.
Salyer, a former Dalton State College professor who resigned from teaching after he was arrested, faces two counts of rape, one count of statutory rape, three counts of child molestation, five counts of aggravated child molestation and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony. The child relative Salyer is accused of molesting testified on Tuesday that she was at Salyer’s house in January 2012 when he put his hand under her clothes then placed part of his hand in her vagina and moved it around. Cotellese said the girl described the movement during the exam on Jan. 26, 2012 — about five days after she said the alleged molestation happened — by crooking her index finger up and down.
Jury members on Wednesday viewed multiple photographs from the exam and listened to testimony from Cotellese that the girl had a urinary tract infection and her vagina was red and swollen with some abrasions and “almost scabbing” in parts.
“They (the injuries) are consistent with what she had told me,” Cotellese said. “Generally, you wouldn’t see that kind of marking on a child otherwise... On (a part of the vagina), just the scratching type marks she has would be very consistent with a finger or fingernail going over that tissue.”
Yet the nurse stopped short of saying the markings proved the girl was molested.
“It is a very unusual find,” she said. “Can I say it was 100 percent child abuse? Objectively, it is a finding that should not be there.”
Meaney questioned Cotellese about other factors that could have contributed to the redness and other markings, pointing out in a question that one of the causes of inflammation could be “poor hygiene.”
Cotellese declined to give an opinion, saying the question should be posed to a gynecologist. Meaney also pointed out the girl already had an infection.
“If a child is itching, is burning, has some irritation, it’s fair to tell this jury ... a child may well be rubbing themselves,” he said.
“A child would not create damage to their tissue to that level of injury to relieve an itch,” Cotellese replied. She also said urinary tract infections ordinarily don’t cause “persistent itching.”
Attorneys for both sides said the case is taking longer than expected, but they expect to finish presenting testimony today.
‘I never got the chance to choose’
The oldest alleged victim, now 21 and married with two children, cried and appeared to struggle to maintain enough composure to testify several times while she was on the stand. During part of her testimony, her mother stood up and quietly left the courtroom in tears.
The witness said Salyer’s inappropriate conduct toward her began when she was about 9 or 10, and Salyer and his wife, Deborah, were living in Crandall. She said she, her mother, her stepfather, her younger sister and two brothers would visit the Salyers at their home and sometimes go camping or take part in other outdoor activities together. Later, the children would often be with the Salyers without their parents, and sometimes only two or three of the children visited at a time, she said.
The first time the 21-year-old said she remembers something inappropriate happening was when the family was on a camping trip with the Salyers. Somehow, she said, she and Monte Salyer were separated from the group, and he pulled up the skirt she was wearing, tucked it into her panties and made her walk the rest of the way like that almost until they got back, then told her not to tell anyone.
She said the sex acts progressed.
Then there was a time when Salyer kissed her on the mouth while they were in the bathroom, she said — and both her brothers saw it.
“They told my mom, and my mom asked me, but I denied it — and she believed me!”
The witness began to sob.
“I said ‘no,’ (when asked),” she said. “I didn’t want anybody to know because I was so ashamed and embarrassed, and I didn’t know what they would think of me.”
That wasn’t where the abuse stopped though, she said.
The woman said Salyer once put his crotch up to her mouth and tried to get her to give him oral sex, but she turned away and refused. That happened when they were sleeping in the living room together with at least some of her siblings and Salyer’s wife, she said. She said it was common for the kids and the Salyers to sleep together on the floor in the living room, but she or her younger sister were always made to sleep next to Monte Salyer so he could perform sex acts on them.
“At the Crandall house was when he first took my virginity,” the 21-year-old said. She said it started with him rubbing his crotch on hers, but one day it escalated. “I never got the chance to choose who I wanted to give my virginity to.”
‘I didn’t want to do that to my sister’
The woman said Salyer had sexual intercourse with her numerous times over the years, made her look at pornographic magazines his live-in son had before making her have sex with him, gave her oral sex, looked at her when she was in the shower, had her touch his crotch, and touched her vagina under the covers while he read or told bedtime stories to the children. She said he also bought her a padded red bra, thong panties and “skimpy” clothes such as short shorts and tank tops. She said she kept the clothes in a drawer at his house because she wasn’t allowed to dress like that at home. Yet Salyer also bought her “normal clothes” too, including a church outfit, she said.
At one point, he took her and a sibling to a summer program for young teens he helped teach at Dalton State College, she said. The siblings were living in Tennessee at the time, and she said Salyer used the occasion to drive them to the program, and get her over to his house where he had sex with her.
She said one time when Salyer was having sex with her under the covers when his wife was in the room, Deborah Salyer heard “some noises” and asked her about them the next morning with only her sister present.
“Was anything happening that wasn’t supposed to be happening?” the woman said she remembers Deborah Salyer saying.
The witness said she denied it and changed the subject.
“After that, she kept quiet and that was it,” the woman said.
Deborah Salyer testified on Tuesday she asked her husband once when she heard a noise she couldn’t identify, and he told her at the time he was massaging the youngest girl’s sinuses to alleviate pressure. The 21-year-old said she suspected Salyer was molesting her sister, but she never asked about it.
“Because I knew how it would feel if people found out,” she said. “I knew how embarrassed I would be, so I didn’t want to do that to my sister.”
Monte Salyer’s affections shifted from her to her younger sister as she got older and began passively resisting his advances by turning away, she said. She said the molestation stopped altogether about the time she was 15 and no longer went to the Salyer home.
The 21-year-old said she eventually told her now-husband about the abuse when they went through pre-marital counseling through a church in Tennessee.
$600 and a moped
The alleged victim said when she told her husband-to-be, he called Salyer on the phone to confront him. That led to an invitation for them both to come to his house, which they said they did about a week later. During that visit, he gave them a moped and $600, which they said they believed was designed to keep them quiet.
The two differed on several of the details in their testimonies, including when the phone call, visit and counseling occurred, and they incorrectly remembered when the check was written.
The woman’s husband said when he confronted Salyer on the phone, Salyer told him something to the effect of “Jesus taught us to forgive and forget.” The families both attended Seventh-day Adventist churches.
“I didn’t know how to react,” the husband said. “I was distraught, and I said ‘yes.’”
Kenemer asked the husband why he didn’t tell police what happened.
“I thought giving him a call was the right thing to do,” he said. “But other than that, I didn’t know what to do. I honestly didn’t.”
Meaney questioned the husband pointedly about why they took the moped and check, demanding several times why he “needed” the vehicle. The husband never gave an answer on “needing” it, saying only, “He offered it to me,” and “I didn’t know what to do.”
Brother: Sister was with Salyer behind locked door
There were discrepancies too between several of the details the girls gave about the alleged sex acts and the accounts their brothers provided. For example, the 21-year-old said both her brothers saw Salyer kissing her in the bathroom, but only her older brother testified he remembered seeing it.
The 21-year-old also said her brothers told her mother directly about the kissing. Yet the oldest brother, who is now 23, said he told a baby sitter who was his mother’s friend, but he never told his mother. The younger brother, now 20, said he only remembered Salyer kissing his sisters “on the head.”
Both men said they remembered times they were at the Salyers’ home and couldn’t account for where their sisters were. Both said they saw things they considered inappropriate at times, whether it was Salyer touching the girls in different ways while they were wearing his white undershirts for their night clothes or holding them in what they thought was a romantic or sexual way in the swimming pool at his house. At least once, the older brother said, he couldn’t find one of his sisters anywhere, and he couldn’t get into a locked bedroom he believed Monte Salyer was in.
The older brother said that after swimming, his sisters would shower in the same shower Salyer used. Yet he also said that at the time he didn’t think Salyer would harm his sisters “in that way.” As he got older and was married, and after his sisters disclosed what happened, he viewed the incidents differently, he said.
The brother also gave a slightly different account of how Salyer would buy clothes for the 21-year-old sister. For example, he said Salyer bought the skimpy clothes and underwear at a department store at a mall. The alleged victim said he bought them at a store but bought regular clothes for her at the mall.
Meaney pressed the older brother sharply on why he didn’t tell his mother, father or any other adults about the kissing incident he allegedly saw. The 23-year-old said he didn’t know and guessed he was scared. He also said that while he felt some things were inappropriate, he couldn’t process them then in the way he can now as an adult.
“Why do you know today but not then?” Kenemer asked.
“When you’re young you don’t know. You’re learning. Now, like, I know. Because I’m married. I do things with my wife,” he said. “I wouldn’t be, like, giving little girls massages and touching them.”
(Editor’s note: This story contains graphic information that readers could find objectionable.)
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