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Witness identifies maintenance man as would-be rapist

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The prosecuting attorney held up the jeans shorts, pink decorative stitching on each leg, and looked at the man in the witness stand.

"Now, your sister didn't have these pants on when you saw her?" asked Anece Baxter White, a Clayton County assistant district attorney.

"No ma'am," said the witness, the older brother of a girl who was allegedly the victim of attempted rape.

"And when you saw her earlier," White asked, "these were the pants she had on?"

"Yes ma'am."

"And where did you find these?"

"In apartment Z-4," the brother said.

On the first full day of trial, a Clayton County jury heard testimony from the 18-year-old brother of an alleged victim of attempted rape and molestation. The girl and her brother are unnamed because of the nature of the alleged crime. Sitting in the witness stand on the fourth floor of the Clayton County Courthouse, the brother told the jury Joseph Reid Bearfield, a 41-year-old school system maintenance man, had his sister in his second story, Morrow-area apartment.

The brother, said he was looking for his younger sister on Sept. 4, knocked on the door of Z-4, and a man, in a voice disguised like a woman's, said there was no girl inside. Then the brother heard his sister scream.

"The only thing I heard her say was, 'Help me,'" the brother testified, Tuesday. "That's when it clicked, and I started kicking at the door... When I kicked the door, that's when he said he had her, so I kicked it 'til it came down."

The brother said the door broke open and he went into the apartment to see a man standing out on the balcony. He testified the would-be rapist ran past him, out of the apartment, and down to a car, backed out and sped away.

"And do you see that man in the courtroom today," White asked the witness.

"Yes ma'am."

"Can you point to him?"

"He's sitting right there, wearing a blue shirt," the brother said.

"The record will reflect that this witness has identified the defendant," White told the court.

The defendant, Bearfield, leaned his elbows heavily on the wooden table in front of him during the testimony. He is accused of child molestation, assault, kidnapping, and car theft.

According to police and prosecutors, Bearfield lured the young girl into his apartment, and told her to remove her pants. When her brother was alerted something was wrong, he found the apartment and pounded down the door, police said, but Bearfield allegedly threw the girl out of the apartment, off the second-story balcony, and ran away.

The 9-year-old was found in her underwear, on the ground below, with a scraped knee and a puffy lip, according to court records.

Bearfield allegedly spent that night hiding in the school district's maintenance building, where security cameras captured him drinking alcohol until he fell asleep and then, the next morning, leaving in a school district pick-up truck.

Bearfield was later fired for the misuse of school property. He was arrested in Atlanta outside a woman's home arguing with a repo-man about towing away a car, according to police.

His attorney, Lloyd Matthews, questioned the brother's memory, his statements about the incident and his identification of Bearfield.

"You only saw one person in the apartment," Matthews said. "Does that mean that was the only person in the apartment?"

"No," the brother said. "It doesn't mean that."

"Could it be," Matthews said, "that when you said it was my client, you could have been wrong?"

"I doubt that," the brother said.

Bearfield faces a possible sentence of life in prison. The trial is scheduled to continue on Wednesday.