Testimonies began Monday and a verdict is expected today. Fender allegedly conducted acts of sodomy with his daughter, who was under the age of 14 at the time of the incidents. Two other victims came forward, claiming to have been inappropriately touched by Fender.
Witnesses from local Advocates for Children's Child Advocacy Center told jurors that each victim responded differently, noting that the defendant's daughter had not told anyone of the allegations prior to an investigation from the Department of Family and Children Services, who was alerted by a Bartow County school system counselor.
The daughter claimed that sexual abuse began when she was 6 or 7 years old at a residence outside of Bartow County. She said in her initial interview that her father had touched and stuck his fingers inside her "no-no square," later identified as her genital area. She alleged that he would sometimes call her into his bedroom and take off her clothing, ask her to undress or place his hand down her pants while sitting in the living room of the residence. However, during her testimony, the teenager never mentioned oral sex incidents and claimed that he only touched her inappropriately on her breasts and genitals.
Sgt. Mike Fitz, currently employed with Adairsville Police and who was a lieutenant with the Euharlee Police Department at the time of the incident's report, testified that during his interviews with Fender, the man said the children were angry with him for making them "mind and follow the rules." Fitz also said that Fender appeared to be pretending to cry during the interview and this assumption was reached when the officer witnessed no signs of tears, redness of eyes or mucus as would indicate sincerity.
During a court recess, two witnesses for the defense approached attorneys, claiming that one of the jurors conversed with them in the smoking area outside the judicial center, saying that he did not want to be on the jury. After being questioned by defense attorneys and Judge Nelson, the juror denied talking to anyone about the case. While Nelson accepted the juror's testimony, at the request of defense attorneys Edward Dettmar and David Lumpkin, the juror was excused from the trial and an alternate will take his place today.
Dettmar also motioned for the court to reconsider some of the charges filed against Fender and withdraw them from the deliberations of the jury.
Dettmar's request resulted in a withdrawal on several counts, including those of child molestation with dates that show no testimony of the family's residence in Bartow County, as well as a questioning of whether or not one encounter was consensual between Fender and one alleged victim who was over the age of 16 at the time of the supposed abuse.
Questioning consent, Nelson said that no child under the age of 16 could, by law, give consent to sexual acts. The controversy arose after the defense questioned the girl's actions and her conflicting testimony. In their conversation, Dettmar and the judge noted that the girl entered Fender's bedroom willingly, after he allegedly called her in there.
At that point, there was no indication of a refusal to enter the room. However, she did not willingly remove her clothing and Fender allegedly said that if she would allow him to take photographs of her, he would not "do this" anymore. Prosecuting attorney Rosemary Greene agreed that the girl did not testify that she entered the room against her will, thus resulting in the judge removing another count from the jury's deliberations.