A former Bonne Terre resident was found guilty of two counts of child molestation after a two-day trial last week.
A St. Francois County jury deliberated two hours before finding Joseph Hicks, 38, guilty of the Class B felonies.
With prior convictions of forgery and receiving stolen property, he was charged as a prior and persistent offender and could be sentenced up to life on each count. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 15 before Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte.
According to court records, a 6-year-old child told authorities in 2011 that Hicks had touched her inappropriately. She was interviewed by the Children’s Advocacy Center twice.
The child initially told authorities that Hicks touched her inappropriately once and tried to get her to touch his genitals. She made other statements about him not wearing clothes. She said she also witnessed him having sexual intercourse with a woman.
The story changed a bit the next year. She said Hicks tried to touch her at least two times, starting when she was three years old. She said she witnessed Hicks having sexual intercourse with a woman and a man who lived in the same apartment complex outside Bonne Terre. She said they also touched her. It was noted during the trial that deputies were able to identify the couple and that the man is facing unrelated molestation charges.
Hicks was interviewed four times during the investigation. He gave varying statements to police. On Tuesday during his trial, he testified in his defense, denying that he molested the child and denying that he made some of the statements deputies say he made.
During one of the initial interviews, he told deputies that he exposed himself to the child and told the child it was OK to touch his genitals. During the next interview, he told police that he just made that statement to please the police. He denied touching the child.
During the last interview in June of 2012, he said the girl was a liar and he would not plead guilty to anything without evidence. He said he had been abused as a child. He said he has mental issues that include blacking out and he has trouble remembering things. He admitted he has used alcohol, marijuana and meth.
Hicks told authorities he couldn’t remember if he had touched the girl or not. While exiting the interview room, after the audio recorder was turned off, Hicks said, “I need help. I probably did touch (her). It was probably before I blacked out. I need help, and if this gets me help, then I will say I did it.”
His public defender, Tony Manansala, explained to jurors that Hicks has a learning disability and is not very educated.
Jurors listened to the child’s two interviews as well as Hicks’ interviews. They also heard from a doctor who conducted a rape kit. The child and her counselor also testified.