Pettijohn’s Fate in Hands of Jurors

By Teresa Barbian

 

The fate of William Elmer Pettijohn is now in the hands of five women and seven men. Closing arguments were heard on Monday, February 29, 2016. His arrest came after an investigation and arrest of former Anson Chief of Police Patrick Neal Hawthorn. Hawthorn’s trial date has been set for April 18, 2016. Pettijohn was indicted on five counts. One count of human trafficking, two counts of sexual assault of a child, one count of indecency with a child by contact, and one count of indecency with a child by exposure.

The prosecution offered some 34 exhibits into evidence including the testimony of a Texas Ranger who testified that over 500 Facebook text messages were sent between Pettijohn and the victim. The defense’s claim is that other people had access to his Facebook accounts from other devices that were not password protected. The prosecution contends that Pettijohn arranged for the victim to have sex with Patrick Hawthorn, something the defense vehemently denied indicating that the prosecution offered no evidence to prove this theory. The defendant took the stand in his own defense and basically said that the prosecution’s witnesses were not telling the truth. Pettijohn testified that he was not in town on the date the victim said the first sexual encounter occurred. The defense offered no evidence to corroborate his statement. Pettijohn’s son testified for the prosecution that he “accidentally” found out about the relationship when he received a FB text message from the victim after Pettijohn had lent him a cell phone to use. The witness then testified that after he contacted his father and drove to Anson to confront the victim, all of the Facebook text messages ‘disappeared’. The prosecution also contends that Pettijohn fled to the country to Belize in order to evade prosecution. The defense offered a witness who testified that Pettijohn arrived in Belize to look for work, but could not truly testify that he was ever offered or accepted any positions in the oil field industry. 

During the weeklong trial, the prosecution introduced forensic experts who testified that the victim’s DNA was recovered from Patrick Hawthorn’s residence but no DNA evidence was introduced that came from Pettijohn’s residence. A forensic interviewer from the Child Advocacy Center in Abilene testified that she interviewed the victim for over two hours as part of the investigation. A former employee of Pettijohn who lived at his residence testified that there were a few times that the victim came over in the early morning, went to Pettijohn’s bedroom for about 30 minutes and then left, the defense denies that testimony. This witness also testified that Pettijohn wanted to victim to call him, “Big Daddy.” The defense indicated that the witness had an axe to grind because Pettijohn fired her and she thought he owed her money. The Texas Ranger who testified said that he tried to contact Pettijohn while conducting his investigation but was unsuccessful. When Pettijohn was on the stand he said that he did talk to the Texas Ranger and that he just, “miss-remembered” what happened. The last witness to testify for the prosecution was the victim herself. She recounted the first time she had sex with Pettijohn stating that Pettijohn asked her to have sex with Hawthorn. She testified that she did not want to but Pettijohn kept saying, “Do it for me.” While Pettijohn was on the stand, he could offer no reason  why the victim or the other witness were not being truthful. As of press date, the jury had not reached a  verdict.

 

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