Continuous sexual abuse trial under way in Brownwood
Testimony continued Wednesday in 35th District Court in the trial of Christopher Cornett, 35, of Brownwood, who is charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child.
The prosecution is alleging that Cornett sexually abused a 10-year-old girl Cornett and his wife took into their home out of foster care from May 2013 to December 2013.
Defense attorney Jud Woodley told jurors sheriff’s investigators had their minds made that Cornett was guilty when they arrested him. But jurors will have reasonable doubt at the end of the trial about Cornett’s guilt, Woodley told jurors.
First Assistant District Attorney Chris Brown began telling jurors in his opening statement Tuesday about the life history of the now-12-year-old girl, referring to her by the pseudonym Jane Coleman.
“The story of Jane Coleman is a long one. It’s a unique one, unlike any that you have ever heard,” Brown told jurors.
Jane started out life in a home that was “not an appropriate place for a child,” and CPS placed Jane and her sister in foster care, Brown said. He said the girl had been diagnosed with several disorders including bipolar, ADHD and learning disabilities, and was behind socially, educationally and emotionally.
Cornett and his then-wife, Amanda, couldn’t have children and wanted to adopt out of foster care, Brown said. The two took Jane and Jane’s sister into their home and Jane became “quite pleasant to be around,” Brown said.
But there came a “rough time” and Cornett took family medical leave so he could be home to help with Jane, Brown said. Cornett never went back to his job, and the family moved to May.
Finances were tight, the marriage went bad and Amanda Cornett decided she’d had enough by December 2013 and into January 2014, Brown said. Amanda Cornett moved with Jane and Jane’s sister to an apartment in Early.
One night in February 2014, Brown said, Amanda Cornett was preparing the girls for a weekend visit with Chris, but Jane didn’t want to go. Jane told Amanda that night that Chris Cornett had been sexually abusing her, Brown told jurors.
Woodley told jurors in his opening statement that there were “lots of things Mr. Brown didn’t tell you and probably doesn’t want you to hear.”
After the Cornetts’ marriage deteriorated, Woodley told jurors, Amanda Cornett “started running with other people” including a man who was a registered sex offender. Amanda Cornett “tried to figure a way to leave Chris and keep the girls,” and came up with a plan to say her husband was abusive, Woodley told jurors. Amanda “alienated the girls from Chris,” Woodley said.
When Early police officer Michelle Sheedy was dispatched to Amanda Cornett’s apartment in Early, Sheedy asked who was present. Sheedy was told “there’s a man from church who helps us,” Woodley told jurors, and that man is a registered sex offender.
Jane went on to give conflicting statements to a forensic interviewer and a sexual assault nurse, Woodley told jurors.
Now known as Amanda Sharp, Chris Cornett’s ex-wife said she’d met Chris when she was a sophomore and he was a senior in high school, and the two began dating.