Jury selected in wooden box false imprisonment case
by Shaka S. Lias
Mar 22, 2011 | 4427 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A jury was selected late Monday afternoon in the case of Christopher and Heather Leslie, a Bartow County couple who allegedly locked a 7-year-old family member in a wooden box last March.

The Leslies maintain their innocence and have pleaded not guilty to the 18 charges which include numerous charges of cruelty to children and false imprisonment.

Judge Scott Smith is presiding over the case and read each charge to the jurors. Smith told them the Leslies are alleged to have locked the boy in the box sometime between March 26 and 29. He also said they allegedly confined him to a sleeping bag and fed him cayenne pepper.

Christopher Leslie is represented by David Brookshire and James Earl Goad, while his wife is represented by Samir J. Patel. Prosecuting attorney for the state is Shelly Faulk. Opening statements will begin today at 9 a.m.

In Judge Carey Nelson's courtroom the trial of Ernest Joe Sanchez began. Sanchez is charged with two counts of aggravated sexual battery, four counts of aggravated child molestation and two counts of child molestation against a female family member.

Prosecuting attorney Sharon Fox told jurors during opening statements that she expects evidence to show that Sanchez is guilty of each charge.

Fox said Sanchez has known the alleged victim in this case since she was 6 months old. The abuse started when the victim was about 7 or 8 years old.

"As time progressed more intrusive sexual acts happened," Fox said.

The sexual misconduct happened at two different residences between July 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2009 and between Jan. 21, 2004 and June 30, 2006.

The victim, now 12, eventually confided to a cousin who convinced her to tell an adult.

Sanchez's attorney Christina Stahl said that's not exactly what happened. Stahl maintains that her client and the victim had a great relationship.

"Evidence will show they got along great and didn't start having problems until about a year before he turned himself in after he found out there was a warrant for his arrest," she said.

Stahl said the victim became upset with Sanchez after he took her cell phone and found sexually explicit pictures she was texting to boys.

"That was the straw that broke the camel's back," Stahl told jurors.

Since then, Stahl said the story has changed many times and the victim has even gone as far as to write a letter asking for Sanchez's bond conditions to be modified.

Both sides are expected to call witnesses to testify on their behalf today.

Both Judge Nelson and Smith said they expect each trial to continue throughout today and part of Wednesday.