Alleged victim testifies in Miller County rape trial

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Testimony began Tuesday in the trial of a Texarkana man accused of raping a young girl when he was a teen.

Costello Byrd, 23, was around the age of 13 or 14 when he allegedly crawled into bed with a 3-year-old girl and forcibly raped her. The alleged victim, now 14, made an outcry of abuse to her mother when she was 10 in 2014.

Since then, the case moved slowly as pretrial motions and appeals concerning whether Byrd should be charged in juvenile or adult court were heard. Opening statements and testimony began Tuesday morning at the Miller County courthouse before Circuit Judge Carlton Jones.

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In opening statements, Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett told the jury that the alleged victim’s life has been “devastated” since she disclosed the allegations. Little Rock defense attorney Brent Miller said Byrd’s life was “changed forever” on the day the girl’s mother contacted Texarkana, Ark., police.

Texarkana, Ark., Investigator Wayne Easley testified that he obtained a warrant for Byrd’s arrest on a charge of rape in 2014. Easley said the girl made allegations of abuse to a forensic interviewer at the Children’s Advocacy Center and that a physical examination performed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner found evidence supporting her claims, under questioning from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kristian Robertson.

Under cross examination by Miller, Easley said he did not have probable cause to search the home where the abuse allegedly occurred at a house in Texarkana, Ark. Miller pressed Easley as to whether obtaining information about the home’s floor plan would have helped in determining if the girl could have been serially abused without anyone else noticing something wasn’t right.

The alleged victim testified under questioning from Robertson that she often spent the night at a relative’s home as a child. When asked where she wanted to sleep, the alleged victim said she told an adult relative she wanted to sleep in Byrd’s room, which was furnished with bunk beds.

The girl said Byrd got into bed with her and forcibly raped her when she was about 3. She said Byrd’s assaults continued until she was 6 or 7. The girl claimed the abuse occurred more times than she could count.

The alleged victim testified that since her outcry and Byrd’s arrest, members of her family have shunned her. She said she is not welcome to large family holiday gatherings and misses relationships she once cherished.

Under cross examination by Little Rock attorney Joe Churchwell, the alleged victim testified that she couldn’t explain why she continued to choose to sleep in Byrd’s room with the bunk beds after being molested.

“So you kept sleeping in that bed for four years,” Churchwell asked.

Testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday morning at the Miller County courthouse. Byrd faces 10 to 40 years or life if convicted.

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