In striking testimony Thursday, a Texas Ranger said he has identified three suspects in the child sexual assault case that led to Greg Kelley’s conviction and 25-year prison sentence.
One of those suspects, he said, is Kelley.
Another is Johnathan McCarty, whom prosecutors have previously named. Ranger Cody Mitchell said on the stand that he didn’t want to name the third suspect because his investigation remains active.
Meanwhile, the 2013 police investigation into the sexual abuse case was handled so badly that Mitchell said it actually frightened him, if he himself were to be accused of a crime.
“I would be scared to death to think that I could be in the same position,” he said.
Basic elements of an investigation — such as visiting the site of the crime, taking pictures, interviewing possible witnesses or looking for corroborating evidence — were missing. Knowing someone could be charged, tried and imprisoned based on such minimal evidence is disturbing, he said.
Thursday was the second day of hearings during which Kelley’s lawyers hope to prove their client is innocent or deserves a new trial. The proceedings will continue 9 a.m. Friday at the Williamson County Justice Center.
Kelley’s lawyers are trying to convince state District Judge Donna King that Kelley was wrongfully convicted. King will then make recommendations to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will ultimately decide Kelley’s fate.
Prosecutors from the district attorney’s office have been present to listen to evidence and ask questions. But at times, those prosecutors have seemed more like defense lawyers, attacking witnesses by questioning their work and ethics.
DA Shawn Dick has said his team is on a fact-finding mission and is just trying to get to the truth.
Kelley, 22, was accused of molesting two boys in 2013. The then-high school senior was living with his friend, Johnathan McCarty, whose mother ran an in-home day care facility. In July 2013, a little boy told his mother that he had been abused by Kelley. Another boy soon said the same thing, but he later recanted.
Kelley was convicted in 2014 of super aggravated sexual assault of a child and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Since then, his appellate lawyers have been trying to free Kelley based on a series of claims. In short, they’re saying that the Cedar Park Police Department investigation was so bad that the trial was inherently unfair; that Kelley wasn’t around the children enough to molest them; and that a new suspect has been identified.
One of their chief complaints, also, was that Kelley’s trial attorney, Patricia Cummings, botched the case. In court Thursday, she refused to answer most questions, saying she couldn’t violate attorney-client confidentiality — a position that seemed to irk prosecutors, who said they just want to find out what happened.
Under questioning, Cummings said that she met Kelley though the McCartys. Over the previous decade, she said, she had represented several of the McCartys in criminal cases.
Throughout the trial, a number of people had tried to get Cummings to consider Johnathan McCarty as a suspect, said Tracey Anderson, the mother of Kelley’s girlfriend. But Cummings refused to go down that road, frustrating Anderson, she said.
“She put up her hand in front of my face and said, ‘We aren’t going to go there,’” Anderson said of Cummings. “We just aren’t going to take that avenue.”
Dick suggested to Anderson during his questioning that Cummings had to choose between Kelley and McCarty.
“She obviously chose Mr. McCarty in that choice?” Dick said.
“Yes,” Anderson answered.
McCarty’s attorney, Kellie Bailey, repeated to the American-Statesman in an interview Thursday that McCarty didn’t commit the crime.
She said on the day that police think it occurred — July 12, 2013 — McCarty was with friends mourning the loss of a friend who died in a car crash a day earlier.
“Johnathan was devastated,” she said. “His parents were worried about him because he left the house upset.”
On that same day, Kelley was helping his brother’s family move from Hutto to Oak Hill, testimony showed.
Earlier in the week, prosecutors took aim at the work of Cedar Park Police Department Detective Chris Dailey, the lead investigator on the case. Prosecutors criticized the detective for failing to conduct a thorough investigation, saying he didn’t visit the home where the abuse occurred, didn’t talk to people who lived in the house, didn’t identify other children who might have been harmed and didn’t talk to their parents.
Dailey responded that he did a good job.
Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix, who has repeatedly said he supports his detective’s work, told the Statesman on Thursday that he will let the judicial process play out before commenting on the matter.