The Norman Transcript

October 24, 2013

Witnesses appear nervous; some have trouble recalling previous testimony

By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Prosecutors continued calling witnesses to the stand Wednesday morning during the third day of former OU professor of social work Dwain Pellebon’s jury trial in Cleveland County District Court.

Pellebon, 56, was charged in 2011 with sexual abuse. Original charges were amended during a June 22, 2012, preliminary hearing, and the state now pursues three counts of child sex abuse and six counts of lewd or indecent proposals to children.

The last witness of the day gave the lengthiest testimony, and with quite a bit of uncertainty. The female teenage witness was questioned by the prosecution and defense about two different incidents she witnessed after staying the night at the Pellebon home.

A friend of Pellebon’s stepdaughter, the witness testified that she woke one morning after a sleepover in the stepdaughter’s room to see Pellebon stroking her friend’s arm who was asleep on a futon.

The witness nervously swiveled in her chair and was repeatedly asked to speak louder as she answered questions. When describing what part of her friend’s body she saw Pellebon stroking, she gave different descriptions to the prosecution and defense and throughout her testimony said she could not remember.

The witness told defense attorney Jacquelyn Ford that she was angry for being asked the same questions repeatedly and did not want to be in the courtroom.

Finally, the witness said she felt differently about Pellebon than she did when the incident occurred and that now she loved him as a friend.

The father of Tuesday’s 10-year-old female witness took the stand first and answered questions from both prosecuting and defense attorneys, telling them how his family’s relationship with the Pellebon family developed and which of Pellebon’s actions made him uncomfortable, such as asking to be called his daughter’s uncle and coming over to his home uninvited.

While answering questions about Pellebon’s uninvited visit to his home, the witness said after making small talk, Pellebon focused on his daughter and played a chase game with her.

The witness’ daughter described the game on Tuesday as a game in which Pellebon would chase her as a monster and if she got caught, Pellebon would play “eat her” by pretending to eat her hands, arms or shoulder. Several times, Pellebon caught her in his bedroom.

When prosecuting attorney Lori Puckett asked if the witness ever played chase with his daughter, he responded by saying that was different because he is her father and that he doesn’t play such a game with his niece or other children.

The witness continued to state that he found it unacceptable for Pellebon, someone he considered an acquaintance, to play such a game with his child. He said certain decorum should exist between parents and he felt the chase game was beyond that decorum.

While cross-examining the witness, defense attorney David Smith asked if the witness was aware that the reason Pellebon played the chase game with his daughter and she was often “caught” in the bedroom is because his daughter asked Pellebon to play the game and would run into his bedroom. The witness answered, “yes.”

The next witness to take the stand was a 22-year-old female witness whose younger sister knew Pellebon as her godfather. This witness testified that she met Pellebon when she was 14 or 15 and spoke of several incidents in the Pellebon home that made her uncomfortable.

The witness described waking up one morning after a sleepover at the Pellebon’s house to find Pellebon watching herself, her sister and Pellebon’s stepdaughter sleep. The witness testified that after this incident, she never stayed another night there.

Additionally, this witness described an incident in which she sat in the Pellebon’s massage chair, located in the living room, and noticed Pellebon watching her breasts shake.

The witness said Pellebon’s wife wasn’t present but could not remember if his children were when this occurred. The witness never said anything to Pellebon to let him know she was uncomfortable.

Lastly, the witness testified about massages Pellebon gave to her and her sister on various occasions. The witness described the massages as back massages that occurred on the bed in Pellebon’s bedroom. At the time, the witness wore a bra, but she could not remember if Pellebon or herself unhooked it at the time of the massages or if it was unhooked at all.

Defense attorney Smith cross-examined the witness and asked her several questions as to who instigated both her sitting in the massage chair and receiving a massage.

The witness said she chose to sit in the massage chair and Pellebon had never asked her to do so, but she said she never asked Pellebon for a massage.

The witness also affirmed her preliminary hearing testimony that Pellebon had only touched her back and shoulders, but the witness had trouble recalling her age at the time of the incidents.

Both the prosecution and the defense tried to pin down the witness’ age as 15, 16 or 17, but the witness could not be sure in her answers.

Next, the jury heard the preliminary hearing testimony of an 11-year-old female witness and watched the preliminary hearing video testimony of her father. Neither of these witnesses was available to appear in-person during the trial because they are out of the country.

The 11-year-old witness testified about rubbing and petting she received from Pellebon on various occasions while at the Pellebon home or at the movies.

When cross-examined, the witness said that such rubbing and petting felt like a dad rubbing or petting and Pellebon was showing affection with his actions.

This witness’ father, in his video testimony, said he became uncomfortable with some of Pellebon’s actions to the point that he called police, who directed him to the Department of Human Services, which eventually contacted him.

The father said his cause for concern stemmed from a conversation he had with another father in the same social circle and the behavior he observed in Pellebon’s stepdaughter, such as invading his personal space and occasionally flashing the witness by raising her skirt.

The witness said the conversation he had with another father firmed suspicions in his mind that Pellebon was having sexual contact with either his stepdaughter or other children. Upon cross examination, the witness said he never witnessed any sexual contact between Pellebon and any child.

After five witness testimonies, the trial concluded for the day; it will be in recess until 9 a.m. today in District Judge Tracy Schumacher’s courtroom.

Katherine Parker