NEW BOSTON, Texas: The state rested its case Wednesday afternoon in the trial of a man accused of preying on girls whose youth and family circumstances made them vulnerable targets.
Todd Peck, 51, whispered to his lawyer and took notes as five different witnesses, ages 14 to 24, testified that they were sexually assaulted more times than they could count. Peck is on trial for the alleged continuous sexual abuse of the youngest alleged victim, now 14, and faces a minimum of 25 years if convicted.
The four other alleged victims who testified allege abuse in other Texas jurisdictions. Charges are pending against Peck in Harris County as well. Their testimony was allowed by 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart to demonstrate a pattern of alleged illegal conduct by Peck.
Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp described Peck as, “a predator the likes of which law enforcement in this county has never seen,” in her opening statement. Deborah Moore of the Bowie County Public Defenders Office, who is representing Peck with Public Defender Clayton Haas, reserved the defense’s opening for the beginning of its case.
The first alleged victim to testify, now 24, said she met Peck when she was 5 and living in Gilmer, Texas. She said she became best friends with another 5-year-old girl whom Peck claimed to be in the process of adopting at the time. The witness said Peck began sexually abusing her the first time she spent the night with her friend.
The witness said it was obvious Peck had been abusing her friend as made clear by the girl’s cooperation with a game of Peck showing them where babies came from progressed. The witness said Peck abused her and her friend in front of each other and encouraged the girls to touch each other sexually.
The 24-year-old testified she once caught Peck watching a pornographic movie involving two men having sex with an elderly woman who appeared deceased. She said Peck made the girls watch a pornographic movie titled “Pretty Baby” with a female child victim about once a week.
That alleged victim and others described a room in Peck’s home which contained a camera on a tripod, a sheet hung for a back drop and a bin full of scarves, lingerie and bathing suits.
“If he wasn’t taking pictures he was touching himself,” one alleged victim testified.
Most of the five girls who testified said they were eager to live with Peck because he offered attention, love and stability lacking in their own lives. The youngest, now 14 and the alleged victim named in Peck’s indictment in Bowie County, said her home life was chaotic and unstable. She and her older sister, now 18, testififed they met Peck at a garage sale in Houston.
The older sister, who reported Peck to the Bowie County Sheriff’s Office in April of last year, said Peck convinced her mother to sign over guardianship and she began living with him at age 9.
“He made me feel safe,” the 18-year-old testified. “It seemed like he really cared about me.”
The older sister testified that several other girls were living with Peck at the same time. She said Peck would get money for stays in hotel rooms by telling churches he was helping foster children. All of the alleged victims testified that if they didn’t participate in sexual activity with Peck he would demean them and deprive them of food and trips to parks and restaraunts, under questioning by Crisp and Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards.
As the younger victim testified, Crisp displayed a photo for the jury of the girl sitting on a chair allegedly posted on social media by Peck. In the comments under the photo, Peck wrote that he picked up the girl and her sister at a garage sale.
Thursday morning the defense is expected to give an opening statement and call witnesses who might testify in Peck’s defense. If convicted of the continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14, Peck faces 25 to 99 years or life in prison. There is no possibility of parole for any sentence imposed for the offense.
A verdict is expected Thursday or Friday.