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Jury acquits Chappell on two counts

By Ed Brock

As the jury foreman read the words "not guilty" to two counts of child molestation against him, Kenneth Chappell sat quietly.

After they finished announcing that they were hopelessly deadlocked on three other charges, and after the judge dismissed the jury and declared a mistrial on those three charges, then the former sheriff's deputy fell into his family's arms.

Meanwhile, the family of the 6-year-old boy Chappell was accused of molesting when he was 3, expressed anger at the jury's lack of decision.

"This isn't over yet," said a friend of the boy's mother who also testified during the trial.

Two jurors, who voted for the other not guilty verdicts, wanted to convict 39-year-old Chappell on charges of aggravated child molestation, sodomy and sexual battery that were levied against Chappell in May 2001.

The Clayton County District Attorney's Office will have to decide whether to retry Chappell on those three charges, but Assistant District Attorney Rita Lewis quickly left the courtroom after the verdict was read without making a comment.

During the four-day trial the mother of the child testified that some time after Chappell had baby-sat the her son the boy made the comment "Ken do that" when she tried to correct him about touching his private parts.

The boy also said "Ken bite me" and leaned toward his crotch, the mother and her friend said. In an audio-tape of the police interview with the boy he answers "No" several times when asked if anyone touched him but when asked if anybody bit him he said "Ken did."

According to the officer conducting the interview the boy pointed toward his private parts and said "Right here" where asked where Chappell had bitten him. Chappell's attorney Ricky Morris attacked the interview as being contaminated in part because the boy's parents were in the room who told him he could not go home and play until he answered the police officer's questions.

Morris also questioned why a videotape was not made of the interview to show where the boy was gesturing.

But the tape was clear evidence, the boy's paternal grandfather said.

"I feel it's a crying shame when we call upon the community to make a decision and they couldn't make a decision," the grandfather said. "In the audio tape he said he had been bit here by Ken and that was ignored."

The maternal grandfather of the boy said his daughter was very upset and he believed the trial should not have been held in Clayton County.

"By his own admission he at least acted inappropriately," the grandfather said, referring to Chappell's testimony that he had showered with the boy. "He will never be acting like (the boy's) grandfather again."

Chappell declined to comment on the acquittal and mistrial, but his father Bob Chappell said they felt vindicated.

"That's the verdict that should come out," Chappell said.

During the trial Chappell also said that he had told the 22-year-old mother, whom he had known since she was a child, that he wanted a sexual relationship with her. He also said he had showered with the boy on around three other occasions while he was babysitting him in order to keep the boy from running around the house.

Morris said that Chappell would appeal to the Civil Service Board his termination from the Clayton County Sheriff's Office that occurred as a result of his arrest on the charges.

Sheriff Stanley Tuggle said he could not comment yet on whether he would rehire Chappell until he learns if the district attorney's office will seek to retry him on the three remaining charges.

But his job is not the only thing Chappell lost as a result of the charges, Morris said.

"Mr. Chappell can never get his name back from being trashed," Morris said.