The Norman Transcript

November 1, 2013

Trial for Dwain Pellebon wraps up today; jurors will begin deliberation phase

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The last of the witnesses were called to testify Thursday, several of whom are family members of former OU professor Dwain Pellebon, 56, who is charged with child sexual abuse.

The main focus Thursday was on the testimony of the mother of the alleged victim whose disclosure of child sexual abuse was heavily analyzed and questioned Wednesday because of her mental disabilities.

The Transcript is not identifying the parent to protect the identity of the alleged victim.

The mother talked about bringing the girl into the world a little less than three months premature. The premature birth resulted in the child’s mental disabilities, she said.

Because of the struggles she had with her daughter’s delivery and events of that day, she said she would do anything to protect her. The mother also talked at length about the day her daughter disclosed the sexual abuse in 2011.

It started with a call from the school saying it wasn’t an emergency, but they needed her to come over. She thought maybe her daughter had gotten in trouble. She was ushered into a room at the school and met the lead detective on the case, she said.

She testified that the detective asked if she knew her daughter had been molested for several years and that other children had been molested by Pellebon, as well.

“I felt like the world was coming down on me,” she said. “I said ‘this couldn’t be real, this couldn’t be real.’”

The detective said she was allowed to see her daughter if she didn’t ask her any questions about the allegations of child sexual abuse.

When she saw her daughter, the girl had an audience, so she was animated and was telling stories because that’s what she does, the mother said. When she was alone with her and began asking questions about whether something happened between Pellebon and the girl, the detective “exploded,” she said, and told her to get out of the room.

She said she tried telling the detective her daughter tells stories and asked how the interview was done and how the confession came about.

The mother then had to talk to a Department of Human Services case worker who told her she was a “bad mom” and wasn’t “protecting her child,” the mother testified.

“I couldn’t do anything,” she said.

DHS took the mother’s son away later that day, as well. Both the son and daughter were taken to a shelter where she was not allowed to contact them. The son was allowed to be back with his mother about four days later, but the daughter remained in the state’s custody for eight months.

The mother said she had to follow several court orders to get custody of her daughter again. Her daughter was to have no contact with Pellebon and the mother was not to discuss the case with her children or ask them any questions about it. She also had to undergo counseling, seminars, mental evaluations, drug tests and more, she said.

When asked if there was anything the court would have ordered her to do that she wouldn’t have done to get back custody of her daughter, she replied “no.”

The woman’s daughter testified in court last week. During that testimony, she told the jury Pellebon removed her clothes, his clothes, got on top of her on a bed and put his arms on her arms. She said he then moved his body up and down and told her not to tell anyone. She said it happened on two different occasions.

Another incident occurred in the shower when Pellebon touched her repeatedly in private areas, the girl testified.

Wednesday’s testimony of several doctors focused on confabulation. Confabulation was described as fabricating information to fill gaps in memory or fabricating information to please others and make a connection with them.

Defense attorneys alluded to the girl confabulating to please the forensic interviewer during the girl’s disclosure. One of the doctors testified Wednesday that the girl’s interview was confusing and she seemed like a child who was easily swayed. Also, her lack of detail in the disclosure of sexual abuse concerned him.

Another doctor testified that a child at her mental level is not sophisticated enough to maintain a lie or confabulate because they would get confused.

“I want the truth, everybody wants the truth,” the mother said Thursday.

The mother also was questioned about a particular event in which the girl would have to take off her clothes to have medical cream applied to a skin condition. The condition, eczema, was all over the girl’s body, including on her chest, back, arms, legs and buttocks, the mother said.

Sometimes Pellebon would apply the medical cream on the girl to treat the condition. During Pellebon’s interview with police, he told the investigating detective that the girl had been naked in his presence before, but it was only to apply medical cream on her.

The mother said her daughter still has eczema and although the child is 17 now, she still has to apply the cream. She testified that she talked to the girl about putting the cream on herself, but the girl said she didn’t want to.

Earlier this year, the mother also took her daughter to a psychiatrist after an incident where the girl said she saw a ghost or demons, so she threw a Bible at the window and broke the window, she said.

Prior to the incident, the girl had overheard a conversation her mother had about someone dying in their home, the mother said.

She said she told her daughter not to worry about the window, and when her daughter said she didn’t feel normal and didn’t know why she was thinking that way, she asked if the girl wanted to see a doctor. Her daughter said “yes.”

When the mother was asked if the girl usually comes to her when she is sick, scared or is having medical or emotional problems, the mother said “yes.”

Since then, her daughter has been undergoing therapy, or “life coaching,” she said.

Pellebon’s stepson also took the stand Thursday. Attorneys asked the son about his relationship with his father and his father’s conduct at social gatherings and around children.

The son said his father was caring, nurturing, looks out for him and spends time with him. The son testified that when they were at social gatherings, his father would spend an equal amount of time with children and adults.

He said when his father talked to children or played with them, he would spend time with both girls and boys in the social circle.

Pellebon’s two biological daughters from different marriages also testified Thursday. The two also described Pellebon as a loving, caring, affectionate father. They said he was a very involved parent, as well.

The second oldest daughter, in particular, was asked about Pellebon and her mother’s divorce when she was a child. When asked if she was aware of any issues that arose during that marriage regarding her father’s conduct with children, she replied “yes.”

One issue involved a girl from their church. She said she was aware of her father going over to the girl’s house after the girl’s father had left for work and lying with her in a bed, cuddling her. She said she knew that caused problems between the families.

The oldest daughter was questioned about her knowledge of the allegations against her father. She said she always knew her father to be an affectionate person, but the motivation behind the affection was shocking to her.

Jury instruction and closing statements will be given starting at 9 a.m. today in District Judge Tracy Schumacher’s courtroom. The jury is expected to go into deliberation afterward.