Stepfather accused of molesting youngster, defense claims charges part of custody battle
(Editor’s note: The identities of some family members are purposely vague in an effort to try to protect the identity of the young accuser, who is a sophomore in high school.)
A 16-year-old Jones County girl took the witness stand and testified that her stepfather started molesting her when she was 8, but she didn’t decide to speak up until years later, when he tried to get full custody of her younger sister.
“I knew she was not safe with him,” she said, choking back tears.
Lindin Ellzey, a 38-year-old body-building bail bondsman from Soso, is charged with three counts of molestation. His trial started Thursday afternoon in Jones County Circuit Court, with his attorney Christopher Farris of Hattiesburg and Assistant District Attorney Kristen Martin trying to make their case before the jury and Judge Dal Williamson.
Ellzey’s stepdaughter — a sophomore who makes all A’s, is in Beta Club and participates in athletics — said he was a “nice guy” and a “good stepfather.” But in 2009, when she was in third grade, the molestation started, she said.
“He would force me to take my clothes off and he would take his clothes off,” she told the jury.
She then described touching and oral sex that he made her do, and that he did to her.
“He would only do it when my mom wasn’t home,” the girl said.
Martin asked why she never told anyone about the abuse.
“I was scared and embarrassed,” the stepdaughter said, “and he said he would kill himself if I did tell anyone.”
Farris grilled the girl for about 20 minutes, causing her to sob at times before she was able to recompose herself to answer his questions. He asked her if she had a teacher, a coach or a youth minister that she trusted. When she answered “yes,” he snapped, “Why didn’t you tell them?”
In 2014, the girl’s parents took her to a counselor at Forrest General Hospital because they believed something had happened to her, but she refused to talk then, they testified. Then in an interview with a Department of Human Services investigator, she didn’t report anything inappropriate had happened with Ellzey.
“You told her nothing happened,” Farris said. “Do you want the jury to believe, four years later, that you’re telling the truth?”
The girl, crying, said, “I was scared.”
The girl testified that the abuse occurred “every month” from January 2009 to January 2014.
The girl’s father, who lives in Lamar County, testified that he knew something was wrong with his daughter, but she “froze up, wouldn’t talk to anybody” when he took her to a counselor. Then in November 2016, she said she was “ready to talk,” and they had a family meeting to discuss the process.
Her mother, who is a teacher in Jones County, testified that her daughter woke her up one night and said that her sister “was not safe” at Ellzey’s house, then began to cry. “But she wouldn’t say why. She refused to say anything.”
The mother met Ellzey in the parking lot of McDonald’s in Ellisville the next day and confronted him.
“Did something happen?” she recalled asking him. “He just asked me to lower my voice.”
Ellzey then agreed to sign over full custody of their older daughter and to modify his visitation with the younger daughter to “supervised visitation.” But a couple of months later, Ellzey filed a petition with chancery court to get full custody of the younger daughter.
The mother said she went to her attorney Brad Thompson to find out what to do, and he directed them to go to the Jones County Sheriff’s Department and talk to Capt. Tonya Madison.
In December 2016, after the girl had been interviewed by a specialist on the coast and the JCSD got three affidavits, three warrants were issued for Ellzey’s arrest, Madison testified. She never interviewed the girl, which is standard procedure.
If convicted, Ellzey faces up to 45 years in prison.