A lawyer representing a woman accused in the 2011 sexual abuse of two young girls argued at a Wednesday hearing that his client’s statement to investigators should be thrown out.
Amanda Arellano, 29, of Crawford County, is charged with rape, four counts of aggravated child molestation and two counts of sexual exploitation of children.
Her trial is set to begin Aug. 18 in Bibb County Superior Court.
Arellano’s lawyer, Bobby Bearden, argued during Wednesday’s hearing that his client was coerced into cooperating with investigators.
Former Peach County Sheriff’s Office investigator Jimmy Russell testified Arellano was “nonchalant” when she spoke with him and a GBI investigator Jan. 20, 2012. He said Arellano wasn’t threatened or offered anything in exchange for her statement, and she didn’t ask for a lawyer.
During the interview, Arellano admitted participating in sex acts with her then-boyfriend and the girls, witnessing sex acts involving the girls and taking photographs of the sex acts, Russell said.
Arellano sat beside Bearden during Russell’s testimony and the testimony of a therapist who has been working with the two alleged victims, aged 9 and 11.
Bearden maintained during the hearing that Arellano’s boyfriend, 30-year-old Daniel Kelly Copeland, of Fort Valley, abused the girls and Arellano didn’t participate.
Bearden also argued that the girls, who were 6 and 8 at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, should be required to testify in the courtroom during Arellano’s trial.
Rebecca White, a therapist at Lighthouse For Families, an arm of the Methodist Children’s Home, testified that forcing the girls to face their alleged abuser would cause “massive setbacks” in their recovery.
“I think they would relive the trauma they’ve already experienced,” she said.
Judge Howard Simms ruled that he will allow the girls to testify via closed circuit television or some other digital means such as Skype.
He reserved his ruling on Arellano’s statement to police until after he’s able to watch a recording of the interview.
Russell testified that Copeland admitted to the sexual abuse when he was arrested Jan. 18, 2012.
Peach County authorities had been alerted by Copeland’s father, who told them his son had admitted having inappropriate relations with children.
At some point, Copeland told authorities that he and his girlfriend started doing drugs that made them “especially sexual,” prosecutor Nancy Scott Malcor said last year when Copeland pleaded guilty to rape and four counts of aggravated child molestation. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison followed by lifetime probation.
Russell testified Wednesday that Copeland showed investigators photos and text messages that corroborated his confession.
He said that evidence was used to get an arrest warrant for Arellano, who was arrested the same day.
Arellano told investigators the sex acts occurred at a house in the Baconsfield area of Macon where she and Copeland lived for a short time, at a home in Crawford County and in an abandoned trailer in Houston County, Russell said.
By the time of their arrests, Arellano and Copeland were no longer dating, Russell said.
In their statements to authorities, Arellano and Copeland said the alleged abuse began in September or October 2011, he said.
Authorities have said Arellano and Copeland performed sex acts in front of one of the girls and then Arellano helped the girl perform sex acts with Copeland. At some point, Arellano allegedly held the girl down while Copeland had sex with her.
Sex acts also allegedly occurred involving the younger girl.
White testified the children “freeze” with a “blank stare” when they’re asked to talk about the alleged abuse. They do spontaneously comment about what happened to them while playing games during therapy sessions, or while drawing.
She said the goal of the therapy is “for them to be able to manage these traumatic experiences” and be able to grow up as “typical little girls.”
“They have made a lot of progress,” White said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.