0

Ex-MARTA cop on trial in child sex case

Defendant Willie Clarence Lee listens to his defense attorney cross-examine the alleged victim in his case. She was the state’s first witness Tuesday morning and told jurors he sexually assaulted her from the age of 9 to ninth grade. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

Defendant Willie Clarence Lee listens to his defense attorney cross-examine the alleged victim in his case. She was the state’s first witness Tuesday morning and told jurors he sexually assaulted her from the age of 9 to ninth grade. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

JONESBORO — The state’s first witness took the stand Tuesday morning and testified that a former MARTA cop raped her when she was 9 and continued “dating” her until ninth grade.

The girl, now 16, is not being identified because she is the victim of an alleged sexual assault. Petite with long hair, the teenager testified that Willie Clarence Lee Jr. told her he loved her and gave her money. Lee, 47, of Ellenwood, is charged with multiple counts of forcible rape, child molestation and statutory rape. The girl reported the alleged encounters last year after her aunt intercepted a text between the two.

Under questioning by Clayton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Kathryn Powers, the girl described her life leading up to the first alleged rape. When Powers asked her about incident, the girl was silent for about 20 seconds before answering.

“He got on the bed with me and started touching me,” she said quietly.

The girl testified in graphic detail about other intimate contact with Lee, saying she believed they were dating. She testified that he contacted her to meet him at a store near her house, pick her up and take her back to his house. She said Lee gave her money so she could have her hair and nails done.

His case is being heard this week by Senior Judge William Ison. Lee is being represented by defense attorney R. Gary Spencer.

Spencer cross-examined the girl, focusing in on the fact she kept the secret hidden from her family for so long.

“You knew the difference between right and wrong, yes?” he said. “You never told your aunt or grandma he was touching you inappropriately or in a way that’s just wrong? You never said he got into bed with you and touched you?”

At the time of his arrest last year, Lee had worked for 12 years as a MARTA transit officer in Atlanta.

In a warrant issued last year to Clayton police Detective Joanne Southerland, Lee is accused of having a physical relationship with the girl, who was a relative of a woman he dated for seven years.

Southerland said in her affidavit that Lee continued to communicate with the girl after his relationship with the woman ended. When the child got into trouble on New Year’s Eve 2012, 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 2013 by DeKalb County police and was released on $10,000 bond. Police 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 her aunt.

“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 trial is expected to last most of the week. It is not known if Lee will take the stand.