Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

January 30, 2013

Jury convicts Yocum for lewd acts

TAHLEQUAH — Jurors deliberated more than two hours Tuesday before convicting a Tahlequah man of committing lewd acts to a 10-year-old girl he had raised as his daughter.

Christopher Joe Yocum, 28, showed little emotion as District Judge Darrell Shepherd read the jury’s guilty verdicts on both counts. The panel of 10 women and two men recommended Yocum receive three-year sentences on both charges.

Prosecutors called only two witnesses to testify during the two-day trial: the now-11-year-old victim, and Northeastern State University Detective Sgt. Jim Flores, who was lead investigator in the case.

Defense attorney Angela Jones called no witnesses to testify on Yocum’s behalf.

After both sides rested and jurors were excused for a break, Shepherd reminded Yocum of his right to decide whether to testify on his own behalf. Shepherd asked Yocum if he understood this right, and Yocum hesitated before saying he did. Shepherd  told Yocum he was offering him a final chance to make the decision, and Yocum again declined.

During testimony Tuesday morning, Jones questioned Flores over his investigation and the decision not to seek help from an outside entity – such as the Tahlequah Police Department – in handling the case. Jones explained the allegations had occurred on the university campus, and campus police typically handle such cases, though city officers also have jurisdiction to work on campus.

Jones raised questions about Flores’ testimony that an audio recording he tried to make of his interview with Yocum had failed to work. Flores said he didn’t know why the recording malfunctioned, and wasn’t aware of it until after the interview. Flores also said he didn’t seek anyone’s help in trying to recover the recording.

Jones told jurors during closing statements that Yocum had been “interrogated” by Flores for more than an hour and continually denied the allegations, but later inked out a written confession. Flores insisted during his testimony he conducted an “interview,” not an “interrogation.”

Flores testified he interviewed Yocum April 25, 2012, the day after Yocum allegedly placed the girl’s hand on his penis for a second time in about a month. According to Flores, Yocum denied, during about the first 30 minutes of the discussion, that he had done so.

But Flores said his instincts, and Yocum’s mannerisms, led him to believe Yocum was lying, and Flores admitted he accused Yocum of lying. Flores said Yocum appeared “withdrawn” during the interview, crying and refusing to look directly at the officer.

Jones insinuated Flores had formed an opinion that Yocum was guilty before the interview began.

“No,” Flores responded. “It’s not my job to determine guilt.”

Jones then insinuated Flores wouldn’t have been satisfied with the interview until Yocum made a confession.

“That’s word play on your part,” Flores said. “I wanted him to do the right thing, to tell the truth.”

Jones later told jurors the state prosecutors had not met their burden of proof, and produced little evidence that Yocum was guilty.

“[Assistant District Attorney B.J.] Baker tried really hard to get [the victim] to tell him what he wanted her to say, and she didn’t say it,” Jones told jurors.

Jones said innocent people have been known to confess to crimes they didn’t commit for various reasons and under certain circumstances. She pointed out no one knows the environment in which Yocum was placed during his interview with Flores – though Yocum wrote in his confession that Flores was “honest” with him during the talk, and also reportedly apologized for lying.

“There was a tape, but unfortunately, we don’t get to listen to it,” said Jones, “... because mysteriously, the tape isn’t working.”

Jones said Yocum wrote in his confession what Flores told him the victim had alleged.

“This man is on trial for his life. Why don’t you just investigate it? Common sense,” said Jones. “You can’t guess Mr. Yocum into the penitentiary. ... The way this investigation was handled was absolutely pathetic.”

Jones told jurors what the state presented was not enough to convict Yocum.

Baker and Assistant District Attorney Marena Doolittle pointed to testimony of the young victim, who said Yocum was in her room on night and she felt her hand being moved off of her bed. She said she believed Yocum’s hand was on her own hand, and described in words and by using her hand the shape and feel of what she was touching.

She said Yocum had previously apologized to her, but wouldn’t tell her what he did, and asked her not to tell anyone else.

Prosecutors said Yocum lied to Flores early in their interview because of shame and guilt.

“This is a case, as you heard, about shattered trust,” said Baker. “[Yocum] knew what he did the night before. He knew what he was doing; he did it the month before.”

Baker closed by asking jurors to send Yocum a message “that he can’t creep into little girls’ rooms in the dark of night for his sexual gratification.”

He then asked jurors to give Yocum the maximum punishment for both counts: 20 years each.

After jurors returned their verdict, Shepherd scheduled formal sentencing for 3 p.m. March 7.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • ts-smallholders-courtesy.jpg Rural smallholders host annual show

    More and more, many people are showing growing interest in learning the sources of their food, including meat. As such, interest in farm-to-table living is increasing.
    Saturday, the Rural Smallholders Association held its annual spring show at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds, promoting the farming of sheep and goats, along with giving the general public a sample of their products.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • pitts-hurley.jpg Wanted man nabbed during traffic stop

    Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies arrested a wanted man this week after a traffic stop near South Muskogee and Willis Road.
    Hurley D. Pitts, 40, was being sought by authorities on a motion to revoke a previous sentence.
    Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrick Snyder said he stopped a car after it ran off the road a couple of times. A woman was behind the wheel, and Pitts was sitting in the passenger seat.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-Wikafile.jpg Communiversity Band performs Sunday

    Musicians from on and off the Northeastern State University campus have made their final preparations for an upcoming performance of the NSU Communiversity Band.
    The ensemble performs Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m., in the NSU Center for the Performing Arts. The conductor is Dr. Norman Wika, associate professor of music and band program director. Guest conductor is student Kameron Parmain. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors.
    “Everything has come together very well this semester,” Wika said.
    “We have about 40 musicians, and everyone who started the rehearsals has stuck with it. This could be the best Community Band concert yet.”

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Council concerned over reports of land contamination

    Negotiations involving the purchase of nearly 20 homes on 7 acres of land near Basin Avenue hit a snag Monday night when concerns surfaced over potential contamination of the area.
    Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols had proposed the city purchase the homes and duplexes as a large step in a greenbelt project, which would establish a solid park and trail system from the downtown area to the site of the city’s old solid waste transfer station.
    Until Monday, details of the negotiations had been mostly discussed behind closed doors, though Nichols confirmed the list price for the property to be $480,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Council tables cell tower permit apps

    Tahlequah city councilors on Monday opted to hold off on approval of two special-use permit applications that would help AT&T install a couple of 150-foot cell towers within the city.
    Branch Communications is asking for the permits as it attempts to construct two monopole cell towers – one on Commercial Road near Green Country Funeral Home, and another at the Tahlequah Public Schools bus barn on Pendleton Street. Other towers are being built outside of the city limits.
    Members of the city’s planning and zoning board gave their OK for both permits last month.

    April 23, 2014

  • SR-WalkaMile1.jpg Walk a Mile 2014

    Men squeezed into feminine footwear Saturday by the hundreds to walk in solidarity with women on the issue of sexual violence – and their clop-clop-clopping echoed down Muskogee Avenue.
    The fourth annual “Walk a Mile In Her Shoes” brought men to Norris Park, accompanied by their enthusiastic female supporters, to walk – and often wobble – in high heels over a mile-long course to raise funds for Help-In-Crisis.
    “It hurts every year,” said John Christie, a Sequoyah High School student participating in his third Walk a Mile. “I get home, sit down, blisters come up and the calves hurt. But it is worth it. It’s for a good cause.”

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • adams-christopher.jpg Michigan man gets 13 years on plea to rape, sodomy of girl

    A 28-year-old Michigan man will spend about 13 years in an Oklahoma state prison after pleading guilty to four counts of first-degree rape and one count of sodomy involving a 13-year-old girl.
    Christopher Dale Adams, of Lake Orion, Mich., received a 13-year prison sentence for each of the five charges, to be followed by seven years suspended. All sentences will run concurrently.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • logan-amy.jpg Police take down pair on pot distribution charge

    Tahlequah police officers arrested a pair Sunday night for allegedly possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute it.
    Tahlequah Officer Cody Warren said police were asked to investigate when 35-year-old Amy N. Logan, of Tahlequah, allegedly took a family member’s car without permission.
    While Warren was speaking with the owners of the vehicle, Logan arrived along with 26-year-old Theoplilus James Mollie, of Tulsa.

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • land-lisa.jpg Two nailed with meth, pot hidden in bag of chips

    Two people were arrested early Monday morning when Tahlequah police stopped a vehicle near Basin Avenue and found methamphetamine and marijuana hidden in a bag of chips.
    Tahlequah Officer Cory Keele said he noticed a Nissan heading north on Park Hill Road, and the vehicle later stopped in an intersection.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • gawf-johnny.jpg Nylon case doesn’t fool deputy; drug charges to be filed

    A Tahlequah man is jailed at the Cherokee County Detention Center after being arrested on drug possession charges.
    Deputy Michael Cates stopped Johnny Lee Gawf, 25, near Stick Ross Mountain Road and U.S. Highway 62. Gawf did not have his driver’s license and had a no-bond warrant for failure to pay.
    When Gawf was asked to step out of his vehicle, he allegedly reached into a pocket and pulled out a black nylon case, which he claimed to be a pocket knife. Gawf sat the case in the seat of the vehicle.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

How confident are you that the immunizations for infants and children are reasonably safe?

Not at all confident.
Somewhat confident.
Relatively confident.
Extremely confident.
undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' Obama to Oso: We'll Be Here As Long As It Takes Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers
Stocks