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Defense rests in Reaves trial
Closing arguments set for Monday

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A Stockbridge woman accused of killing her stepdaughter did not take the stand in her own defense.

Testimony concluded Friday in the trial of 43-year-old Charlott Reaves. Reaves is charged with malice murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated battery and cruelty to children in the first degree, in the death of 11-year-old Joella Reaves.

Closing arguments in the Henry County murder trial are expected to begin Monday, at 9 a.m.

Prosecutors believe the Charlott Reaves and her husband, Rodney Reaves, beat Joella for several days, causing more than 100 injuries over a five-day period in 2003. Rodney Reaves was convicted of murder in the case in February, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Charlott Reaves' attorney, David Wolfe, spoke briefly Friday about the decision not to call her to testify.

Wolfe said there was no need for his client to take the stand, because videotaped statements she made to police at the beginning of the investigation were played in court earlier this week.

"She essentially testified for six hours on the first day of the trial," said Wolfe.

The last of three defense witnesses, counselor Charles Corva, testified before Judge Wade Crumbley on Friday. Corva, who met with Joella and Charlott Reaves several times in the weeks before the child's death, described Joella's demeanor in his initial sessions with her as "withdrawn."

The counselor said Joella Reaves was "depressed," and he spent much of his time trying to "connect" with her.

"She said she wanted to disappear and be a ghost," said Corva.

Corva said Joella Reaves exhibited anger and defiance during the sessions, and said she was having difficulty dealing with the death of her birth mother in 1995. Joella Reaves lived with her aunt in the years following her mother's death, and came to live with Rodney and Charlott Reaves in 2002.

One of the major complaints Corva reportedly received about Joella's behavior, from Charlott Reaves, centered on alleged lies told by the child while she lived with the defendant. The counselor acknowledged that incident contributed to Charlott Reaves forcing Joella to write repeated lines, referring to herself as "a liar and a thief."

However, Corva said he did not recommend such a practice to Charlott Reaves, because he favors discipline as a method of teaching rather than punishment.

Corva said Charlott Reaves "seemed to be a concerned parent," during the times he met with her and Joella. He added that on the weekend prior to the child's death, Rodney Reaves called his office because Joella was "demanding attention" from her stepmother, who had "attempted to develop a relationship" with her.

Corva was also questioned by Assistant District Attorney Jim Wright regarding allegations that Charlott and Rodney Reaves tied Joella up for hours at a time. Corva said he would "never suggest" such measures to parents attempting to discipline their children.

"If you have to grab your child and hold them down to keep them from hurting themselves, call the police," he said.