published Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Detective grilled in court over Facebook case in Catoosa County

The Catoosa County Courthouse opens its door for session Monday morning. Davida Caylor was scheduled to appear in court on charges of making false statements to the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office on March 17, 2014.
The Catoosa County Courthouse opens its door for session Monday morning. Davida Caylor was scheduled to appear in court on charges of making false statements to the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office on March 17, 2014.
Photo by Dan Henry.

The Catoosa County Sheriff's Office arrested Davida Kaye Caylor last year because her son tagged her in a photo on Facebook. She never said it was real.

This information came out publicly for the first time in Catoosa County Superior Court on Tuesday, the second day of a criminal trial against Caylor. In February 2013, the sheriff's office arrested Caylor on charges of making false statements -- the false statements evidently being her son's Facebook photo.

At the time of the arrest, Detective Freddie Roden did not write in an incident report the specific false statements that Caylor made to him. But during a cross-examination Tuesday, Roden said a school resource officer at Heritage High School showed him the Facebook picture taken by Caylor's son, then-15-year-old Gregory Aaron Black.

In court, Roden said he was not aware that Black posted the photo that was on Caylor's Facebook wall. And, before arresting Caylor for the photo, Roden testified Tuesday that she did not lie to him about the picture. He said he never asked about it.

"You don't typically charge people criminally that post material on Facebook that is inaccurate?" defense attorney Richard Murray asked Roden.

"Not typically, no," the detective said.

Roden was a key witness for Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt, who was tasked with prosecuting Caylor on four charges. In addition to making false statements, Caylor faced charges of obstructing law enforcement officers and two counts of tampering with evidence when her trial started Monday.

But after Roden's testimony Tuesday, Judge Kristina Cook Graham acquitted Caylor of one of the tampering with evidence charges. Roden was Arnt's final witness.

The defense will call its own witnesses when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.

The trial stems from a confrontation between Caylor's son and Eric Beagles, a Heritage High School assistant principal and baseball coach. What happened is up for debate. Beagles says he grabbed a phone at the same time Black did and set it back down on the phone's receiver. Black says the teacher grabbed his right hand, twisted it and slammed it on his desk.

Regardless of what happened, Black went to school nurse Angie Swanson's office about 30 minutes later. She said his hand was red and that the knuckles on his index, middle and ring fingers were swollen. She also said the middle finger was bruised.

About an hour later, Swanson wrote that the swelling got worse. Then, Caylor took Black to Hutcheson Medical Center, where a doctor put Black's hand in a splint and reported that the hand was bruised, swollen and tender.

Caylor filed a complaint against Beagles with the sheriff's office. Three weeks later, Roden arrested Caylor for making false statements, alluding to a Facebook photo that the detective believed was fake.

However, he testified Tuesday that he never talked with Caylor about the picture.

"I didn't have the chance," Roden testified.

"So there is no false statement," Murray said. "You have a vague impression of some false statement, but you didn't ask her about that?"

Murray argued that Roden never really investigated Beagles, instead focusing his attention on arresting Caylor for complaining about the assistant principal. At least twice after the incident, Caylor asked Roden to listen to a conversation she recorded between her and Heritage High School Principal Ronnie Bradford.

During that conversation, which Bradford discussed in court Monday, the principal told Caylor that Beagles' actions were inappropriate. The principal said Beagles wanted to apologize to the family.

On Tuesday, Roden said he did not know about that conversation before the trial, even though Caylor asked him several times to listen to it. Roden said he interviewed Beagles one time, and Beagles told the detective that he never touched Black.

"Before you decided who to prosecute," Murray asked Tuesday, "you didn't at least try to listen to the recordings?"

"The investigation changed from Aaron Black being a victim to being a suspect," Roden said.

"But you didn't even listen to the evidence," Murray said.

When Roden arrested Caylor, he also tried to execute a search warrant for her phone. He didn't a get the phone until two weeks after Caylor's arrest because, he said, the family at first hid it from him.

But, Murray pointed out Tuesday, Caylor had offered Roden her phone several times before her arrest. So why get a search warrant? In front of the jury, Murray read from a transcript of a pretrial hearing on Sept. 12, when Roden testified under oath that Caylor refused to give him the phone.

"Did she say, 'no,' to you, or did you decide not to contact her?" Murray asked Tuesday.

"I don't recall," Roden said.

The detective said he needed the phone because he believed someone Photoshopped the picture (a GBI medical examiner also testified Tuesday that the injuries from the photo didn't line up with the actual injuries). Roden said he didn't find a photoshopping application on Black's phone, so he wanted to see if Caylor had one on hers.

"Your investigation has uncovered no forensic explanation for how the picture was changed?" Murray asked Tuesday.

"Correct," Roden said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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