NEW BOSTON, Texas — The victim in a child sex abuse trial testified Wednesday that she was 11 or 12 when her favorite adult relative gave her a bubble bath, painted her face with makeup and dressed her in a skirt and low-cut blouse before driving her to a motel room.
Della Lou Griffin, 53, the adult who sold her younger relative and introduced her to prostitution and drugs, was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison by a Bowie County jury for aggravated sexual assault of a child and to 20 years on each of four counts of sexual assault of a child. After reminding Griffin of what she stole from the victim, 202nd District Judge John Tidwell ordered the terms to run consecutively for a total life-plus-80-year sentence.
Under questioning from First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp, the victim, now in her late 30s, said she shivered in the cold night as Griffin drove her to a motel in New Boston, where John Littleton was waiting. The three then drove to a liquor store in Texarkana, where they bought wine coolers, whiskey and vodka. On the way back to the motel, the girl sat between Littleton and Griffin in the cab of the truck. As Littleton groped her leg, she elbowed Griffin, hoping she'd make him stop.
Earlier that day, Griffin and the girl were Christmas shopping in a local store when Littleton happened upon them.
"I heard him say, 'Well she's about ready,'" the victim testified.
Littleton died in June 2018 while free on bond on sexual abuse charges.
The victim testified that Griffin convinced her she would be "bait" to get cash from Littleton, but once the money changed hands, Griffin would do the "work" while the girl waited in the car. But after returning from the liquor store, Griffin pocketed some bills from Littleton and left to get ice. She did not return until the next day.
That was the first time Littleton raped the girl. It was not the first time Griffin gave the girl alcohol or marijuana. Soon Griffin was giving the girl crack cocaine-laced marijuana, and the victim was abusing drugs intravenously before she turned 16. Griffin told the victim she could get a lot of money for her virginity, her family needed the money and Littleton preferred young girls.
Griffin came to the attention of law enforcement in April 2018 after a search of Littleton's home on Meadow Drive in New Boston in connection with a human trafficking investigation.
"It was disgusting," Texas Department of Public Safety Special Agent Briscoe Davis testified. "John Littleton is the most disgusting individual I have ever been around in my life."
Davis and Special Agents Dustin Estes and Andrew Venable testified under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards that Littleton's home was wretched with trash, filth and human excrement. The stench was so foul that Venable vomited in the front yard. Sex toys were laid out on shelves. Photographs of the residence showed Littleton's massive collection of pornographic videos and magazines.
Among the porn, agents discovered a VHS tape labeled with the victim's name. Another video was labeled "Della."
The video of the victim was filmed in January 1996 when she was 14, Davis testified. A news report announcing that Lisa Marie Pressley had just filed for divorce from Michael Jackson allowed investigators to date the recording.
The girl and Littleton are nude in the video and he sexually assaults the girl in multiple ways while Griffin gives the girl instructions on technique and tells her to stop covering her breasts with her hands. In the video, the victim repeatedly covers her face with pillows. Three different "sessions" recorded on different dates at different motel rooms were played for the jury.
"He smelled bad, he was so huge, it was so gross," the victim testified, covering her face with her hands and sobbing at times during her testimony.
Investigators estimated Littleton's weight at approximately 400 pounds at the time he was sexually abusing the girl in her pre-teen and teen years.
Prior to selling the girl to Littleton, Griffin would prostitute herself at local truck stops while the girl waited in the car. After selling the girl to Littleton, Griffin began selling the victim to other men as well and arranged for her to marry as a teen so that authorities would stop trying to make the young girl attend school.
The victim told the jury that Griffin would rent a room at local motels and pull the curtains back so men could get a look at the girl. Griffin would go outside and conduct the financial transaction before a man would enter the room. The victim testified that she was never given cash by Griffin and was once left stranded with no shoes when she asked for some pocket money.
Davis testified that in the video labeled "Della," Griffin and Littleton not only have sex, but discuss Littleton's preferences and evaluation of the victim's sexual performance.
Griffin, who was in her 30s when the victim's video was created, testified under questioning by Assistant Public Defender Clayton Haas that she is illiterate and that her family, which has a long history of ties to Littleton, needed money.
"I didn't know no better. I didn't know it was wrong," Griffin said under cross-examination by Crisp. "It was all about money. All of it was about money."
Crisp's assessment of the case was apparent in her final words during Griffin's cross-examination.
"Della, prison is too good for you," Crisp said.
In addition to maximum prison sentences on each of the five felony charges, the jury also assessed Griffin maximum fines on each count for a total of $50,000.
In closing remarks, Richards asked the jury to consider the amount of cash Griffin collected as she sold the victim to seven to 12 men a day for a four- or five-year period.
"What you have seen in here we don't see very often," Richards said. "We are more than 20 years in the past. Y'all have seen the future that most juries don't get to see. The impact of what this does to children. How horrible it is and how often they just never recover."
Littleton's longtime roommate, Charles Garton, is serving a 160-year term for sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl. Another Littleton associate, Kenneth Nelson, is serving five life terms for human trafficking involving a number of other young girls.
Crisp thanked the jury for their service and acknowledged the horrific and graphic nature of the evidence they viewed.
"Even in her failed attempt to throw herself on the jury's mercy, Griffin was unable to demonstrate even a shred of remorse for her despicable actions," Crisp said. "Although Della Griffin placed no value on this little girl's innocence and happiness, the jury certainly did."