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NEW BOSTON, Texas—Opening statements and testimony began Tuesday afternoon in the trial of a Texarkana man charged with sexual misconduct involving a 12-year-old girl.

Charles Edward Garton

Charles Edward Garton, 40, is accused of assaulting the girl twice in early 2018. First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the jury in opening statements Tuesday afternoon that Garton came to the attention of law enforcement during their investigation of his longtime friend and roommate, John Littleton.

Littleton, 71, died before he could be tried on multiple charges of child sexual assault and human trafficking involving a number of different young girls. Prior to his death, Garton often accompanied Littleton to court appearances. Kenneth Nelson, an associate of Littleton's, received multiple life sentences last summer for human trafficking involving young girls he traded drugs for sex.

Garton is accused of sexually assaulting "victim #3" in his Bowie County indictment. Crisp told the jury that victims one and two were assaulted by Littleton.

Crisp said that Garton and Littleton were close friends who lived together in a house on Meadow Lane in New Boston for more than a decade. The alleged victim and her older sister were given rooms in the Meadow Lane house when their grandparents were no longer able to care for them. The girls' mother was unable to care for them because of her own "problems," Crisp said.

"That house was a house of horrors for these kids," Crisp said. "There were illegal activities everywhere and those girls were stuck. They were forced to live in filthy, horrible conditions."

Texas Department of Public Safety Special Agent Josh Vera testified under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Craig Foster that he didn't want to believe Garton—whom he had known for years—was guilty when he was tasked with surveiling and interviewing him. A cell phone video of Vera and DPS Special Agent Lance Klein interviewing Garton in the carport at the Meadow Lane residence was played Tuesday for the jury.

In the interview Garton at first denies any misconduct, describing himself as a father figure who makes sure the girl and her sister attend school. But eventually Garton confesses that he touched the girl and sexually assaulted her.

"It's not like I like every kid running down the street," Garton said in the interview. "Just her."

In the interview, Garton admits that the girl denied his requests to see her breasts numerous times before finally complying.

"She was always asking for stuff so I just threw it at her, 'Let me see your (breasts)," Garton said in the video recording.

Garton's lawyer, Bart Craytor of Texarkana, described the confession as coerced after hours of grilling by law enforcement.

"No good deed goes unpunished," Craytor said as he described Garton as providing food, clothing, cell phones and encouragement to the alleged victim and her sister.

"There is no DNA, no injuries, no anything to back up these two," Craytor said of the alleged victim and her sister, in whom she allegedly confided.

"His actions consistent with a law abiding citizen trying to take care of two little girls who had a rough life and he wanted them to experience a better life," Craytor argued.

Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday morning in the 102nd District Court over which Judge Jeff Addison presides. Garton is facing 5 to 99 years or life in prison on each of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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