At the end of a one-day trial Wednesday in Miller County, a jury found a local man not guilty of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in 2017.
Had the jury not acquitted Tarrell Parks, 35, he would have faced a 25-year minimum.
Witnesses testified that the girl's mother called the Texarkana, Arkansas, Fire Department and told the chief she wanted to give up her daughter. The mother also mentioned that the girl had allegedly been sexually assaulted.
The fire chief contacted personnel with the Department of Human Services, who in turn contacted the Department of Child and Family Services. Rachel Speights, a DCFS staff member, testified that the girl's mother would not immediately open the door of her unit at a Texarkana, Arkansas, apartment complex.
When Speights interviewed the mother, she found her to be "erratic, all over the place," and suspected drug abuse. Speights said the mother confirmed she was using cocaine and methamphetamine. Speights testified there was no running water in the apartment.
Speights said the girl "begged me to take her with me," and that she was well-spoken, polite and sweet.
The girl was taken into state custody at that time and remains in foster care. Speights said she contacted the Arkansas State Police to inform them of the sexual assault allegation. The girl was interviewed at the Texarkana Children's Advocacy Center.
The girl testified that Parks pushed her up against a kitchen counter in her mother's apartment and kissed her before pushing her down on the floor and sexually assaulting her.
Parks testified that he has never been in the apartment where the girl lived with her mother. Parks said he was working for a local taxi company and would often be dispatched at the mother's request for transport. Parks said the girl's mother, a regular fare, would often call him directly on his cellphone when she needed transportation.
Parks said he recalls only once when the girl rode with her mother, that he never got out of the car, and denied he has ever touched the girl.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys Connie Mitchell and Kristian Robertson argued for a conviction. Texarkana lawyer Josh Potter pointed out the lack of physical evidence in the case. A jury may convict if the testimony of just one witness leaves them believing in a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"We forced the state to provide answers to some very hard questions. That is the way it should be in any felony case," Potter said. "My client and I are thankful for the jury's attention and considered decision."