March 14, 2013

Former professor found guilty of child sex acts

Rachel Brown

(Editor’s note: This story contains graphic information that readers could find objectionable.)

A former Dalton State College professor was stripped of his personal effects and led away in handcuffs Thursday afternoon after a jury which deliberated for less than an hour found him guilty of sex acts with a child relative and two young girls he befriended at church.

This was after the defendant, Rocky Face resident Monte Gale Salyer, now 59, admitted during a law enforcement interview played for the jury that he was sexually attracted to the then-8-year-old relative he was charged with molesting, that he had difficulty controlling his sexual desires toward her, and that he had placed his hands on her private area. The girl testified earlier in the week about the molestation as did a now-17-year-old victim and a now-21-year-old victim.

Amanda Salyer, one of the victims’ family members, said the verdict is a relief.

“This has lifted a weight off our shoulders,” she said. “We can start the process of healing. This was truly bittersweet for all of us. He ripped apart our life, but we will start to rebuild now.”

The jury of nine women and three men in Judge Cindy Morris’ courtroom in Whitfield County Superior Court found Salyer guilty of child molestation against the 8-year-old. They also found him guilty of three counts of child molestation, two counts of aggravated child molestation, one count of rape and one count of statutory rape on the 17-year-old. A charge concerning the 21-year-old was dismissed after prosecutors asked to throw it out, but the jury did find Salyer guilty of rape and two counts of child molestation against her.

Monte Salyer is scheduled for a sentencing hearing today at 10 a.m. He faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole for at least 30 years.

District Attorney Bert Poston said the evidence in the case was “substantial, including the defendant’s recorded admission to Det. Chris Guay of the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office that he had touched the youngest victim inappropriately.”

“Regardless of how strong a case we may have, it is always difficult for victims in cases like this to come into the court and testify about events in their life, which while not in any way their fault, are nevertheless terribly personal and embarrassing,” Poston said. “This is especially true of child victims, and we applaud their courage for coming forward and facing the man who did this to them.”

Defense attorney Jim Meaney declined to comment immediately after the verdict Thursday afternoon, saying he might have something to add later.

Each of the three victims gave detailed testimony about the abuse during the trial that began on Monday with testimony concluding late Thursday morning. The jury also heard from a forensic interviewer, a nurse who examined the 8-year-old, several law enforcement officers, Salyer’s wife and several of the victims’ family members. No witnesses were called to testify for the defense, and Salyer declined to take the stand himself — a constitutional right which Morris reminded jury members was not to be held against him.

Salyer: ‘There is some level of attraction’

Salyer was arrested early in 2012 after the 8-year-old came forward with the allegations. Poston praised the work of Guay and the other officers involved. He and another officer elicited Salyer’s confession at his home in Rocky Face during the investigation and prior to his arrest after the youngest child told a forensic interviewer Salyer placed his hand in her vaginal area and moved it around.

When the two officers went to Salyer’s house in the days after that allegation, they didn’t know about the other two victims. They only questioned Salyer concerning the relative. At first, Salyer denied it and offered an excuse.

“I have not tried to do that to her, but there have been times when she hasn’t always had underwear and she likes to get on my lap, and I do pick her up, so I think contact is possible,” he said on the recording.

He said the girl was just “a little confused” about what really happened.

As the conversation went on, he said the girl sometimes sat on his lap, but that she was of the age where he felt she should no longer be doing that, and he didn’t know how to handle the matter without hurting her feelings.

At another point an officer on the tape asked Salyer if he was sexually attracted to younger kids and how he felt about the girl. Little by little, Salyer admitted he was attracted to her though he did not want to be, that he sometimes rubbed her back or legs to help her relax and that he could have “without paying attention” ventured to her crotch, that he probably touched her there on purpose at times, and that he did wrong by touching her and wanted to change.

“I’ve just been too close to her,” Salyer said on the recording. “... I want it to be a healthier relationship, and I’m really sorry...”

Salyer also said on the recording he wants help dealing with his problem, but he denies he has done anything to other children or is, for example, out to get the neighborhood kids.

“I try not to think about this topic because I don’t want to be attracted to anybody but my wife,” he says. “...I’m not going to say (the girl) is wrong about anything except I don’t remember it the way she said.”