Students Testify Against Perry Teacher's Assistant
PERRY, Oklahoma - A day of emotional testimony wrapped up Monday evening in the preliminary hearing for the child molestation case against Perry teaching assistant Arnold Cowen.
All non-essential personnel, including the media, were ordered out of the Noble County courtroom while ten girls described and demonstrated what happened to them. Their parents were allowed to listen to the testimony, however, and many left teary-eyed.
It has been a hard year for the families of victims speaking out about being fondled at Perry Upper Elementary School. A father tells News 9 his 13-year-old daughter has frequent nightmares and has threatened to drop out of school. Another mother says she is moving her family out of town. All agree they have been shunned from the Perry community because many people do not believe their story.
The girls tell authorities they have been called liars from the beginning, despite reporting multiple times that Cowen fondled their breasts while pretending to help with classwork at their desk or hugging them in the hallways. One testified that principal Kenda Miller instructed them to fist bump Cowen instead of accepting a hug to keep him at a distance.
85-year-old Cowen arrived at the courthouse alone Monday, wearing a belt engraved with the word "Grandad".
The district attorney team tried to get a screen placed between Cowen's seat and the witness stand, so the girls would not have to see him, but the judge ruled only to pull the screen up if the victim showed signs of distress during testimony. The girls did have a service dog with them on the stand.
The victims' attorney Cameron Spradling tells News 9 that Cowen tried to make eye contact with the girls from his defendant's seat, and at one point giggled about not knowing the county where she lived. Otherwise, Cowen reportedly sat quietly and listened.
The preliminary hearing continues Monday with testimony from lead investigator Forrest Smith, assistant chief of the Perry Police Department. An officer from the Stillwater Police Department will also testify about the child pornography found on Cowen's computer. The public will be allowed to listen to those accounts.