After listening to approximately six hours of combined testimony on Wednesday afternoon, December 4, and Thursday morning about sexual battery that allegedly took place seven or eight years ago, an Ellisville jury returned a verdict of not guilty Thursday afternoon. The six men and six women of the jury stayed behind closed doors for an hour and a half before returning to the courtroom with a declaration of innocence for 49-year-old Curtis Lowery. The actual words of the verdict that were written on a piece of paper and read in the courtroom by Circuit Clerk Concetta Brooks stated: “Not guilty due to lack of evidence.” Defense attorney Jeannene Pacific had petitioned for a direct verdict a day earlier, immediately after the State rested their case on Wednesday, due in part to what she described as a lack of evidence. That motion was denied by Circuit Judge Dal Williamson.
Lowery is an Ellisville resident who lives on Buffalo Hill Road and operates Psycho Path, a haunted attraction that has been in operation for 10 years.
Lowery also owns a video/photography and Internet commercial advertising business. He had been accused by a juvenile of forcing her to perform illicit sexual acts on him when she was only six or seven years old. He had been a stepfather to his accuser between 2009 and 2014. He and the juvenile’s mother separated in 2014, divorced in 2015, and just over three years later, in June 2018, he was charged with sexual battery after the juvenile finally told her mother, Brandi Hales, of the alleged misconduct.
Kristen Martin of the District Attorney’s Office called three witnesses to the stand for the State, including the young girl, now age 14, counselor Ashlie West of Nool Counseling Center in Petal, and Captain Tonya Madison of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department. The testimony presented by the State attempted to establish the narrative that the juvenile was forced to perform oral sexual acts on Lowery at their residence at 28 Buffalo Hill Road, with some of the acts occurring on the Psycho Path behind the house. Madison noted that the original report stated that the frequency of the alleged abuse happened “almost every night.”
When the young teen took the stand, she chose to not reveal her current home address when asked to. “I do not feel comfortable answering that because if he does not go to jail, he’ll know where I live,” she responded with a slight nod toward the defendant.
The juvenile told jurors that she did not reveal the accusations against Lowery to her mother until 2018 because he told her he would harm her and her mother. The sexual acts that she alleged she was forced to do to the man she called “dad” eventually caused her to have depression and to start cutting herself. She has never met her biological father.
“He said if I told my mom, he would hurt me or her,” she testified.
She finally revealed the accusations to her mother some time after she saw Lowery at a Petal skating rink in 2018. The teen conveyed to the jury that she saw some of her friends at the skating rink and was going over to talk to them when she noticed Lowery nearby. She testified that the sight of him brought back bad memories that triggered much anxiety and panic attacks for her. The juvenile went to a bathroom at the rink and called her mother crying to come get her. Later testimony revealed that Lowery frequented the skating rink, often helping the staff open up and clean up at the business. One of Lowery’s six character witnesses worked at the skating rink and said that many adults enjoy skating, making his point that it should not be considered unusual for an older person like Lowery to be at the skating facility with a bunch of young people.
On day two of the trial, Pacific called Hales, who remarried earlier this year, to the witness stand as an adverse witness. Hales said the first few months of her marriage to Lowery from 2009 to 2014 was good, but then it turned sour. She testified that Lowery did not want her to work, would scream at her and her children, and was physically abusive. When asked why she didn’t leave, Hales said she was scared of Lowery, adding that he wouldn’t let her have a car or a phone.
“I was terrified for my life,” she continued.
Hales said her daughter finally told her the full story on June 5, 2018, the same day her current husband proposed to her. She testified that she, her then fiancée, and her kids were having a good day on June 5 until the proposal. Then her daughter’s demeanor changed; she became distraught and asked her mother to not remarry. Hales said she took her engagement ring off and told her fiancée that she couldn’t marry him until she determined what was distressing her daughter. She then told her daughter on their front porch that she would not go through with the marriage but that her daughter would have to tell her why the marriage proposal had so upset her. That’s when the teen decided to tell her mother her story, Hales remembered, adding that her daughter was afraid that another stepfather might do to her what she alleged Lowery had done. That disclosure by the teen was over three years after Hales’ divorce from Lowery.
“She said she didn’t want me to know everything Curtis did to her because she thought I would look at her differently and wouldn’t love her anymore,” recollected the mother while trying to choke back her emotions on the stand.
A short while later in Hales testimony, Martin unveiled information showing that Lowery had been found guilty of a domestic violence charge back in 2014. Lowery, who chose Thursday afternoon to take the stand in his own defense, said he admitted to the charge and paid a $300 fine because “I wanted to get everything (divorce) behind me and move on.” He said their divorce was due to irreconcilable differences. He also answered “no” to Pacific’s questions of whether he had ever been accused of any other sexual crime or if he had ever been convicted of any felonies.
Pacific then asked him why he chose to take the stand, where he faced tough cross-examination from Martin.
“I wanted the chance to be able to say that not only did I not do that, but I would never do this. It’s so contrary to the way I am with kids. This is the opposite of who I am.”
“Did you ever do anything sexual to (child’s name)?” questioned Pacific.
“No,” he responded.
Family and friends consoled the teen as the jurors exited the courthouse. Lowery also seemed emotional after the verdict was read.