Cedar Park police detectives never questioned a man who has emerged as a suspect in the sexual assault of a 4-year-old and instead focused their investigation solely on Greg Kelley, whose subsequent conviction is now being called into question.
But Johnathan McCarty’s name came up numerous times during the investigation which, according to Kelley’s defense team, should have been a red flag to detectives to look into him further.
McCarty was also living in the home where his mother operated an in-home day care center at the time of the alleged sexual assault, and Kelley’s supporters contend he and McCarty looked strikingly similar at the time.
“It’s a huge oversight,” attorney Keith Hampton told the American-Statesman Friday. “It’s not just interviewing him. They didn’t check him out at all. The discovery I got shows now investigation of Johnathan McCarty.”
Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick confirmed that it is his understanding McCarty was not interviewed by Cedar Park police. He declined to comment further on that issue. Also Friday, Dick said that authorities late Thursday received a tip “that is helpful in the investigation” that authorities are now investigating. He asked that anyone with information in the case call 512-943-1299 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The revelations come at a time when prosecutors and the Texas Rangers are investigating whether McCarty could have committed the crime, which led to Kelley’s conviction and his 2014 25-year prison sentence.
The American-Statesman reported Thursday that officials have reopened the case based on new information uncovered by Kelley’s defense, which contends in a court document that McCarty has photographs of naked children on his computer and confessed to a friend.
The work of everyone involved in the case — from police who originally investigated it to jurors who convicted Kelley — are likely to be again scrutinized in a case that deeply divided the community and was built almost entirely on the testimony of the victim.
According to Hampton, one of the children Kelley was accused of molesting – a 4-year-old who later recanted – said during his interview with the Child Advocacy Center that Johnathan was the one that had harmed him.
But the boy changed his story after a police detective interrupted the interview, saying that Kelley was there too, Hampton said. On the stand, the boy said that Kelley never sexually assaulted him and the jury later said they discarded that evidence.
During the trial, one of the children said that his abuser wore SpongeBob SquarePants pajamas. In court documents unsealed yesterday, Kelley’s lawyers said that McCarty was known to wear those pajamas to school with a pair of moccasins.
Cedar Park Detective Chris Dailey testified during Kelley’s trial that that he believed the children’s allegations.
“As a result you believed you did not need to investigate the possibility of something else having happened?” said Kelley’s lawyer, Patricia Cummings.
“Correct,” he answered.
Dailey added that he decided not gather information about other adults and children at the daycare.
“There weren’t any other witnesses,” Dailey said. He said Kelley was alone in the room with each of the boys when the alleged abuse happened.
And in an email to his staff after the trial, Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix defended Dailey’s investigation. He added his detective acted appropriately when he did not seek other potential suspects in the sexual abuse case.
“No other suspects were sought and the investigation stayed focused on Kelley because that is how a proper investigation is conducted in all cases in which the perpetrator is known to the victim and positively named and identified as the assailant,” he wrote. “When a small child makes an honest outcry that somebody molested them and named their known attacker it would be gross incompetence to try to take them down a different path.”
The Statesman has attempted to contact jurors in the case. Only one was reached Friday, and he declined to comment.
Jana Duty’s chief prosecutor Mark Brunner, declined to comment this week about the investigation into another suspect in the Kelley case. A Statesman reporter emailed Brunner on Aug 15, 2014 asking if he had any response to a motion Keith Hampton filed after the trial. The motion said Hampton could prove Kelley was not around the daycare for much of the time when the boy who accused him of sexual assault was there.
Brunner replied in an email: “During the trial multiple witnesses, including the owner of the daycare and the defendant himself placed the defendant in the house at the time that the child was there, during naptimes, etc.” “The fact that Mr. Hampton has evidence showing that the defendant wasn’t around the victim “most of the time” does not equate with innocence and is certainly not grounds for a new trial,” the email said. “John Wilkes Booth wasn’t around Abraham Lincoln “most of the time” yet he still managed to commit a crime against him.”