JONESBORO — Other inmates shook their heads in disbelief and mumbled as the details of an alleged child sex crime were read out loud Wednesday in Clayton County Magistrate Court.
Former MARTA police officer Willie Clarence Lee Jr. has been charged with having a long-term physical relationship with a child starting when she was 9 that included sex at his home more than 50 times in five years, said authorities.
Lee, 46, of Ellenwood made his first appearance in court with his attorney, William H. Thomas Jr. As Judge Kathy Brown Valencia read the aggravated child molestation warrant in open court, several inmates waiting their own turn shook their heads and appeared visibly shaken. Deputies had to instruct them to quiet down.
At one point, Lee also shook his head but did not address the court. He is being held without bond in the county jail pending a hearing later this month. Lee had worked for MARTA as a police officer for 12 years before being arrested.
In the warrant issued to Clayton police Detective Joann Southerland, Lee is accused of having a physical relationship with a young relative of a female acquaintance. The alleged victim is now 15.
Southerland said in her affidavit that Lee continued to communicate with the girl over an extended period of time. When the child got into trouble on New Year’s Eve, her cell phone was taken away by her guardian and examined, said Southerland. On the phone were explicit text messages and at least one photo of Lee’s genitals he sent to the girl, she said.
Lee was arrested in January by DeKalb County police and was released on $10,000 bond. Crisp said a subsequent investigation into some 450 pages of text and photo messages led to the Clayton charges.
Southerland said Lee told police he thought he was texting an adult relative of the girl.
“It is clear he knew the phone belonged to the child,” said Southerland in her affidavit.
During her interview with police, the girl reportedly said she had sexual relations with Lee more than 50 times at the Ellenwood home he shared with his wife. The girl also allegedly said Lee gave her money.
Because of Lee’s former occupation in law enforcement, Crisp said he is being segregated from the general jail population for his own safety.