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Teen found guilty of sodomy at Clay daycare

By Erik Harris

For The Tribune

BIRMINGHAM — A Jefferson County 19-year-old was convicted Tuesday afternoon on two sodomy charges involving a child at a Clay daycare in 2012.

The jury, however, found Eric Lemont Higdon not guilty of six other charges relating to three other children, including two counts of sodomy and four counts of sexual abuse at Momma’s Place Christian Academy in Clay.

Higdon, 17 at the time of his arrest, was charged with sexual abuse of a child less than 12 years old and two counts of first-degree sodomy with a victim less than 12 years old. Higdon has been free on a $150,000 bond since his arrest in August 2012.

Sentencing for Higdon is set for March 25. Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Teresa Pulliam ordered Higdon be placed in jail to await sentencing.

The jury had deliberated beginning last Thursday, all day Friday and for a couple hours Tuesday before reaching its verdict.

Higdon is the son of a former employee at the Clay daycare. On Aug. 18, 2012, deputies received a report that Higdon had inappropriate contact with a child at the daycare. In the next week, a total of three families reported similar incidents. There were originally four alleged victims, ages 5, 5, 4 and 3.

Eric Lemont Higdon
photo courtesy of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office

The mother of one of the victims called deputies after her 5-year-old son was touching a family member in an inappropriate manner. When the mother asked why, the child told her the suspect at the daycare had touched him that way.

Authorities said Higdon never worked at the daycare, but had been coming there on a regular basis and, while he was there, was abusing the children. Higdon’s mother was dismissed from her employment there.

Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Carlos Gonzalez told jurors the trial was about three children and their loss of innocence while defense attorney Charles Salvagio said the case was all about “big money.” Salvagio said the accusations came from children of parents who owed the daycare money and only came after an attorney was hired to collect the money. The mother of one of the victims disagreed when she testified, saying she only owed $400.

The mother of one of the victims, a first-grader, testified that she called police after witnessing inappropriate touching between her son and his sister.

“I saw him touch his sister and just thought it was curiosity,” she said. “Then it happened again.”

The mother said that when the second incident occurred she asked her son where he had learned the behavior. The son said Eric from the daycare had taught him, she said.

Under cross examination, the mother said she owed the daycare some money, but not what she would call a “large sum.”

Mary Beth Thomas, clinical director of the Prescott House Child Advocacy Center, testified that she interviewed the children in August 2012. She told Gonzalez that the interviews led to the recommendation for criminal prosecution. Prosecutors presented two videos on the first day of the trial of Thomas’ interviews with two of the alleged victims. In the video, the children gave a graphic description of the events they said took place.

Scott Buttram contributed to this story.

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