By Jean Cole
A father bowed his head and wiped away tears as he told a Limestone County jury how his friend allegedly molested his daughters, ages 5 and 2, while visiting his Athens home in 2009.
Testimony began Tuesday morning in the trial of Barry Mitchell Gant, 49, of 25689 Nick Davis Road, Athens. The flying instructor is charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a child under age 12. He has pleaded not guilty.
The father, whose name The News Courier withheld to protect the identity of the children, was the first to testify following opening arguments by District Attorney Brian Jones and defense attorney William Clark of Birmingham. The father said he learned, after the fact, Gant had entered his daughters’ bedroom around 2 a.m., probed the 5-year-old and performed oral sex on both of the girls on Jan. 3.
The father testified that Gant, whom he met in 2005 through Alcoholics for Christ, had come to his home around 7:30 p.m. Jan. 2 to watch an Alabama football game and a movie. Around 9:30 p.m., the father, who has primary custody of the children, put the two youngest to bed and then rocked the 5-year-old.
“She liked me to rock her to sleep,” the father testified.
When the game ended, he put her to bed, he told jurors.
The father testified that around 1 a.m., he asked Gant to sleep on the couch rather than drive home because he had allegedly consumed whiskey, wine and a sleeping pill he had brought to the home. He said he gave Gant a “SpongeBob” comforter to sleep under.
The father, a recovering alcoholic, went to bed because he had to be at work in the morning. He agreed to wake Gant before he left for work because he had to fly.
When the father awoke at 6:30 a.m., he said all three children and the family dachshund were in his bed, which he said was not unusual. He said the children often get in his bed if they awake during the night.
Under direct examination by Jones, the father said he dropped off the children at the home of his ex-wife and her new husband. When he returned about 12:30 p.m., with a gallon of milk for the children, he said his ex-wife asked him if anyone had stayed overnight with him. After acknowledging Gant had visited, the father said his ex-wife told him the 5-year-old had told her of abuse by Gant. The father said he immediately asked his daughter to come to the porch of his ex-wife’s home so they could talk. There, he said the girl repeated the allegation and noting that after Gant abused her, he went across the small room to the bed of the 2-year-old and abused her until the youngest girl cried and then he exited the room. The father said he immediately telephoned Gant, who was still asleep at his house, and confronted him. Gant denied the allegation and the father telephoned the Limestone County Sheriff’s Department.
While being interviewed later that day by Investigator Randy Burroughs, the father decided to telephone Gant. After dialing the number, he placed his cellphone on the interview table with the speaker function activated and asked Gant, again, if he had entered his daughters’ room and molested them.
According to the father, Gant told him, “I don’t know because I’d been drinking, I took an Ambien (sleeping pill) and I was real tired.”
Gant took notes during the father’s testimony.
The mother of the girls and the 5-year-old were scheduled to testify Tuesday afternoon.
Under cross-examination by Clark, the father said his ex-wife told him the 5-year-old claimed she had told her dad of the abuse after she had moved from her bed to his. However, the father said if the 5-year-old did tell him, he was asleep.
“I am not used to going to bed at 1 or 2 in the morning,” he said.
Testimony will continue today.