A 72-year-old grandfather and former daycare owner was sentenced to 35 years in prison Tuesday for the aggravated sexual assault of a child.
The defendant, Danny Ray Gray, of Marshall, was charged with the aggravated sexual assault of a 5-year-old relative. The crime occurred on or about July 9, 2018, according to the indictment.
71st Judicial District Judge Brad Morin sentenced Gray on Tuesday, following an open plea and hearing held Monday.
During Monday’s hearing, the judge watched a recording of an interview with the victim and counselor at the Child Advocacy Center. In the interview, the child disclosed that the defendant rubbed her private area, allowed her to “play” with his genitals and told her not to tell anyone or he’d go to jail.
Marshall Police Department Detective Joe Chastain took the stand, telling how Gray first denied the allegations, blaming the action on the child’s “curiosity.”
“I did notice he tried to project the blame on (the victim),” said Chastain.
The detective said Gray alleged that the victim was curious about his frequent urination due to his prostate issues, which he said is how he ended up exposing himself.
“He said he had to go so quickly that he’d have to pee with the door open,” said Chastain.
He said the defendant went on to claim that the child was constantly trying to sneak in the bathroom and take a peek. The defendant claimed on that day, the victim had hidden behind the shower curtain to sneak a look.
“He said he got mad and said, ‘Fine, if you want to look, then look,’” said Chastain.
The detective said after leaving the interview, Gray called him immediately to make a full confession.
“He called the same day and said: ‘I did it. I’d like to come back and talk to you,’” Chastain recounted. “He said, ‘Everything she said I did, I did.’”
“He made an admission on the phone,” the detective said, telling how Gray confessed to exposing himself and even went as far as trying to instruct the child on how to perform a sexual act.
Responding to questions by his court-appointed attorney Kimberley Miller Ryan, the defendant told the court that he wanted all to know how ashamed he is.
“I want everybody to know that I’m totally ashamed of myself and I’m very sorry,” he said, looking out at his family who was sitting in the courtroom.
Answering questions from Harrison County Assistant District Attorney Madison Hood, Gray claimed that the offense he pleaded guilty to in the indictment occurred by mistake.
“He tried to explain one of his testicles had been swollen and (the child) was curious about that and jumped in his lap,” Detective Chastain recalled from his interview with Gray.
“That happened with me lying on the couch in the living room,” Gray testified Tuesday. “I explained that I had a bag of ice underneath my testicle.”
Pointing out Gray’s contradictions on the stand, Hood asked Gray why he decided to call the detective to retract his initial denial and make a full confession. Gray said he was confused and upset.
“I don’t honestly remember the whole conversation anymore,” he said.
“When I pushed her head down toward me, yes, contact could’ve been made,” he said. “I was trying to be as honest as I could. Well, maybe too honest.”
“She was leaning over me and I grabbed her and pushed her down toward my crotch and I realized I was scaring her and I stopped because I realized what I was doing (would put him in jail),” he testified. “I realized that I was doing wrong.”
The defendant said he realizes his family is upset with him.
“I feel very bad whether they believe it or not,” he said. “I feel very bad that it ever happened.
“They probably hate me,” he said as several of them nodded their heads, confirming that they do.
When asked by Hood how he thinks the victim feels, Gray said “she’s lost all faith in me.”
Considering the defendant’s health and age, his attorney, Ryan, said her client was asking the court to grant him supervised probation. She noted that he is a Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy, has never done drugs and would be able to pay his probation fees with his retirement money, if probation was granted.
She said what he did was indeed wrong and stupid.
“He got angry, aggressive. He didn’t do it for anything of sexual gratification,” she said, arguing he was just got aggressive and angry regarding the victim’s curiosity. She also contended that the CAC was leading the child in the interview.
In her closing arguments, Hood, representing the state, said she fully disagrees.
“He is a sexual predator. His actions, his behavior, they make no sense,” the prosecutor said.
She said if she was so curious as he claims, the defendant would’ve told his wife and her mother that he sensed something was wrong and would’ve questioned if someone was violating her.
“He’s not telling because he’s the one that’s subjecting her to that sexual abuse,” Hood argued.
“Obviously, everything he said today was a lie,” she said, arguing that the defendant took the stand and refused to admit to anything criminal.
“According to him, she’s the one that’s curious. Give me a break,” Hood said. “He subjected her to it, that’s why she’s curious.”
Hood said the incident is not a mistake.
“It’s a huge deal,” she said. “He has no remorse.”
She asked the judge to assess no less than a minimum 30 year sentence in this case.