A Hamilton County Sessions Court judge sent child rape charges against a 45-year-old man to the grand jury for a possible indictment during a closed hearing Monday.
Judge Ronald Durby closed the hearing for Larry Vaughn at the request of a guardian for the alleged 12-year-old female victim, who attended the hearing with an adult woman.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Smith and Assistant District Public Defender Sharetta Smith would not comment on the pending case.
Durby cleared the courtroom of media and public participants for the minor’s testimony. When asked if a hearing to close the proceedings was required, Durby said, “not all of the time.”
Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 30 covers media guidelines in court proceedings. One section of the guidelines prohibits media coverage of minor testimony.
“Media coverage of a witness, party or victim who is a minor is prohibited in any judicial proceeding, except when a minor is being tried for a criminal offense as an adult,” the section states.
But another section allows a judge to hold an evidentiary hearing before closing courtroom proceedings.
“Before denying, limiting, suspending or terminating media coverage, the presiding judge shall hold an evidentiary hearing, if such a hearing will not delay or disrupt the judicial proceeding,” the section states.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter asked Durby if he would wait to proceed in the closed hearing for the reporter to contact attorneys. Durby declined to postpone the hearing.
Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies arrested Vaughn on Sept. 9 and charged him with two counts of child rape from a Sept. 9, 2010, incident.
At the time of the incident, the girl’s mother told police that her daughter was on her way to school when Vaughn, known as “Candy Man” in the neighborhood, lured her into a residence in the 1900 block of Rawlings Street and raped her twice.
Vaughn was questioned the day of the alleged rape. Police sent DNA samples from Vaughn to the state crime lab. Results showed Vaughn’s DNA in the girl’s underwear, according to court documents.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it received the evidence in February and completed DNA analysis by May, according to Times Free Press archives.
TBI used to send notification letters about evidence processing to law enforcement. The agency switched to an online posting system in January 2010. Police who submit evidence for analysis must check the TBI website to see if it’s been processed.
Four months passed before Chattanooga police knew the evidence results were available.
Court records show Vaughn has a criminal record in Hamilton County of more than 50 arrests on charges from assault to theft. In June 2010, he received a suspended four-year sentence for aggravated burglary of an occupied residence.
Vaughn is in custody at the Hamilton County Jail with a $400,000 bond.
He has denied having sex with the girl.
Contact staff writer Todd South at email@example.com or 423-757-6347.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...