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Security videos viewed during maintenance man's trial

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

In the middle of a child molestation trial, a Clayton County jury viewed a video showing a man wandering down a warehouse hallway, passing bathrooms and piles of boxes.

Prosecutor's "exhibit 100" allegedly shows Joseph Reid Bearfield, a 41-year-old school system maintenance man, spending a night in the school's Stockbridge Road warehouse, while on the run after the alleged attempted rape of a 9-year-old girl.

According to Bearfield's attorney, though, what the security cameras captured is nothing more than a case of trespassing.

The first video showed a man pushing a bicycle up an access road, past a gate and a squat satellite dish. The second shows the man, very small at first, walking down the very long hall of what appears to be a warehouse. The video has no sound and the color is kind of washed in tan lighting. The man wanders up the left side of the hall, stops, goes back and looks like he heard something, and then continues, passing directly under the camera.

The man's face is never quite clear, but Bearfield's supervisor on the building and grounds crew, testified Wednesday that the man in the video is Bearfield.

"Could you recognize him?" asked Anece Baxter White, assistant district attorney.

"Yes ma'am," the supervisor said, "as he got close, I could see who it was. It was Joseph Bearfield."

A third video, date-stamped a day later, shows a school system truck, identified as truck 847, back out from under an awning, turn around and, in the final recording, drive out an open gate.

Prosecutors claim Bearfield, who worked in the small engine repair shop for five months, broke into the building, knowing he was wanted by police, slept there, and then stole the Ford pickup.

In early September 2007, Bearfield allegedly lured a 9-year-old into his apartment in Morrow, attempted to molest her, and was interrupted by the girl's older brother, who kicked down a door in his rescue attempt.

Police and prosecutors say Bearfield threw the child off of his second-story balcony, when the brother burst into the apartment; that he sped away from the apartment complex, crashing into a tree and a couple of cars, and then hid out at the maintenance building where he worked.

Brian Nation, the school system's maintenance department supervisor, testified that no one should have been in the building on the weekend, and Bearfield shouldn't have had the keys to the truck he allegedly took.

Nation said he didn't know the truck was even missing until the Atlanta Police Department reported it abandoned, the key locked inside, in the city. Alerted Clayton County police were looking for Bearfield in connection with molestation and assault allegations, Nation began reviewing the video evidence and having people search the premises.

In the small engine shop, where Bearfield worked, they reportedly found a bicycle and empty alcohol bottles. The missing truck was the one assigned to the section where Bearfield was working, the one he'd driven before.

Nothing was reported stolen, though, from the truck or from the school warehouse, which Nation said houses about $4 million of school supplies and equipment. Bearfield was supposed to have a couple of school-issued keys, including a key to the building, and his attorney, Lloyd Matthews, spent some time, in cross-examination, asking what crime had really been committed.

"Basically," he said, "all you know is somebody was trespassing. Is that correct?"

"That's correct," Nation said.

Nation said part of the warehouse's security system was broken that night, because a lightning storm had shorted out an electric-access keypad.

The jury also heard evidence that a rape kit test did not reveal male DNA and no semen was found on the girl's underwear. Crime scene examiners said they found four fingerprints in the apartment that didn't seem to belong to anyone they knew in the case, but the fingerprints were of poor quality, and couldn't be run through a national database.

Matthews is arguing that the evidence leaves room for another person to be involved and doesn't definitely prove Bearfield tried to hurt the 9-year-old, alleged victim.

The trial is expected to continue on Thursday.