By Samantha Pidde
Relief showed on the faces of Russell McColley and his family Thursday as a verdict of not guilty was read in court.
"Our prayers were answered, that's all I have to say," Tracy Hook, McColley's sister, said.
McColley was facing a charge of second-degree sexual abuse. If he had been convicted of the class B felony, he could have faced as much as 25 years in prison.
As the verdict was read, at approximately 1:45 p.m., no one was in court representing the 3-year-old girl that the state alleged McColley sexually abused on July 29, 2013.
Assistant Clinton County Attorney Ross Barlow was disappointed by the verdict. However, he added that the group of citizens making up the jury spent a lot of time on the case and he respects their decision.
The jury spent more than two hours Wednesday and more than four hours Thursday deliberating on the case, which began late Monday afternoon.
During the trial, the state alleged that McColley's girlfriend at the time of July 29, 2013, caught him in bed with her 3-year-old daughter. Earlier this week, the woman testified that she saw the two of them lying next to each other on the bed, without their pants or underwear.
Barlow called members of law enforcement and a forensic expert who found McColley's DNA on a pair of the girl's underpants.
During the trial, defense attorney Derek Jones questioned the credibility of the girl's mother, who admitted that after the alleged incident, she accepted a marriage proposal from McColley and moved herself and her children to Missouri with him.
Jones also questioned the woman about a couple of text messages, which she denied sending, that seemed to indicate she made up the allegations.
Samantha Pidde can be contacted at email@example.com.