Teen boys' testimony sends predator to jail

Cody King
photo Cody King

The testimony of six teenage boys in a Morgan County, Tenn., courtroom this week will put a serial sexual predator in prison for decades.

The boys were aged 11 to 14 when they were sexually assaulted by Cody Ryan King, of Wartburg, between June 2010 and December 2011.

Now aged 14 to 17, the six testified in open court this week about how King befriended, then seduced them. Jurors took just over an hour to convict King, now 24, of one count each of rape and attempted rape of a child, two counts each of aggravated sexual battery and sexual battery, and one count of attempted statutory rape.

"I can't tell you how proud I was of all of them, because I can't imagine how difficult it would be to talk about an experience like that in front of a room full of strangers," said Alyson Kennedy, the 9th Judicial District assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Bob Edwards.

"They all said they wanted an opportunity to tell about what happened because they realized they hadn't done anything wrong and they didn't have anything to be embarrassed about," Kennedy said.

King's attorneys, Daniel Forrester and Martin Cizek, both of Clinton, Tenn., did not respond to calls seeking comment Thursday.

On the stand this week, the boys told how they met King - at sporting events, at church, through friends or older siblings - and how he used typical sexual-predator-style "grooming" to gain their trust.

"Cody seems like sort of the cool older friend or older brother," Kennedy said. "He has all these fun things adolescent boys are going to like to do" - he'd take them four-wheeling or deer hunting or riding in his truck.

"Once he had gained their trust and gotten them alone, then these things would happen."

The young victims described on the stand how King would grab their genitals and say, "gobble, gobble," imitating a turkey call, then laugh it off as just a joke, boys' play. If the boys didn't strongly resist, he'd gradually step up the seduction, touching them over their clothes, then under, and progressing to oral sex.

Some of the boys knew each other, but none knew any of the others were also King's victims, Kennedy said. Investigators know of three other victims who did not want to testify, "but I don't know how many there are that we don't know about," she said.

The case is very similar to one in Hamilton County. Charles David Pugh is accused of raping a 16-year-old boy.

Authorities said Pugh, a former employee of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, is believed to have used similar seduction techniques to victimize at least eight boys aged 12 to 17. Some of those boys were museum volunteers who feared that speaking up would have cost them access to the trains, according to Times Free Press archives.

But eventually several of the boys found out about each other and they spoke to law enforcement about the sexual abuse.

The statutory rape charge was the only one that was not too old to take to court, authorities said. Pugh has a hearing set for Aug. 17 in Hamilton County General Sessions Court.

Kennedy said the Morgan County investigation finally began after one child told family members. Parent contacted parent and, eventually, the sheriff's office.

King, then 21, was indicted in May 2012 on 10 counts of rape, sexual battery and statutory rape. He was released on a $100,000 bond, but that bond was revoked in September 2014 after he began contacting victims on Facebook, 9th Judicial District Attorney Russell Johnson said in a news release.

Kennedy said there was no physical evidence linking King to the boys - "these are not the kinds of crimes that leave a mark that you can see," she said - so the entire case rested on the boys' testimony.

"I'm terribly proud of these boys. I think what they did was very brave," she said. "And I'm thankful for the jury. I think they returned a just verdict, and that's all you can ask a jury to do."

Sentencing is set for Oct. 14. In Tennessee, child rape carries a mandatory minimum of 25 years or as much as 40 years, with 100 percent of time served.

Attempted child rape carries a sentence of eight to 12 years. Aggravated sexual battery is also eight to 12 years and sexual battery, a lesser offense, is punishable by one to six years in state prison. Attempted statutory rape is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail.

Kennedy said she didn't know if her office will ask the sentences be served concurrently - all at the same time - or consecutively - one after the other.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at 423-757-6416 or jwalton@ timesfreepress.com.