Jury considers claims of sexual battery

TUPELO – A Lee County jury will decide if Timothy Stratton sexually assaulted his wife’s granddaughter in 2010 when the girl was 13.
He faces up to life in prison if convicted on the two counts for which he went on trial Monday.
Stratton and his attorney, William Stennett of Tupelo, insist he is innocent and that, if the girl were touched sexually as she claims, it was someone else, not him.
The jury of six men and eight women listened to a variety of testimony this week. Two of them will be designated alternates and will not be part of the final decision.
Judge Paul Funderburk, presiding over the trial in the Lee County Justice Center, will explain the law to the jury and then both sides will make closing statements before the jury retires to deliberate.
Stratton was indicted in Feb. 2011 on accusations he had oral sex with the girl, who was 14 at the time. She reported her claims of sexual contact to her school counselor, who notified Stratton and his wife, as well as authorities.
Wednesday, a 29-year-old male step-sibling testified that the girl told him nothing had happened between her and Stratton. On cross-examination, the young man said she talked to him before the allegations were made to the authorities and that his father, the girl’s grandfather, told him about them.
The girl and several older siblings lived with the Strattons because their mother, Mrs. Stratton’s daughter, was dead. The Strattons married five years ago.
The girl, now almost 15, testified earlier this week that Stratton had her perform oral sex on him and then did it to her. Prosecutors say the girl is mentally challenged with the mental abilities of a 6-year-old.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Neely is the lead prosecutor in the case.
Wednesday, Stratton’s wife, Shirley, testified that her granddaughter never mentioned any inappropriate touching or actions by anyone, and that she believed the girl could have been coached by others or assaulted by someone other than her husband.
The Strattons’ next-door neighbor, Wyman Hurt, said he observed them as a “very nice family” although friction existed between one of the older male children and his disciplinary minded step-father. He also said he never saw anything wrong between Stratton and the girl although he admitted knowing little about what went on inside their home.
District Attorney Trent Kelly objected to the latter witnesses’ testimony about their opinions of Stratton’s truthfulness, earlier saying it was repetitive. Funderburk overruled his objection.
Lorenzo Jones, an Amory minister, said he’s known the family 3-4 years at church on a regular basis. He said the girl never spoke to him about anything improper.
Charles Clopton, Stratton’s brother-in-law, said Stratton was kind and fatherly to all the children. He also said he’d never seen the girl act afraid of Stratton or anything improper between them. On questioning, he admitted he visited the Stratton home about two days a month.
Coy Smith of Smithville said Stratton was his friend years ago, then he married Stratton’s mother so he’s his step-father. He said he never saw anything “irregular” between Stratton and the girl. He also characterized Stratton as “truthful and a fine fellow.”