A Murray County jury found a Dalton woman guilty of four felony counts of sexual abuse of a child and she faces life in prison, according to District Attorney Bert Poston.
Linda Sherwood, 46, was convicted Wednesday of two counts of child molestation, one count of aggravated sexual battery and one count of aggravated child molestation, Poston said in a press release. He said the jury of eight men and four women deliberated for 30 minutes before returning their verdict.
According to the indictments, Sherwood had criminal physical contact with a female under the age of 16 between Jan. 1, 2017, and March 9, 2018.
"Sherwood faces up to life in prison on the two aggravated counts and up to 20 years on each of the child molestation counts," Poston said.
Judge Larry Salmon of Rome set sentencing for Aug. 25 and ordered a pre-sentence investigation to be completed by the Georgia Department of Community Supervision (formerly state probation).
The prosecution was represented by Assistant District Attorney Ben Keneemer and Kenemer was assisted at trial by Special Agent Eric White of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Sherwood was represented by Elise Williard of the Public Defender's Office.
Kenemer presented six witnesses and one exhibit, the victim's GreenHouse interview video. Numerous witnesses from the GreenHouse child advocacy center testified concerning their investigation into the allegations presented to them by White. Kenemer singled out the testimony of a therapist from the GreenHouse as being instrumental in the jury's verdict.
"Certainly one of the greatest challenges we face in presenting child abuse cases is having people relate to and understand a young person who has suffered severe trauma from being sexually abused. The GreenHouse counselor in this case assisted the jury in understanding how this specific child processed the trauma she suffered and how that came out in the GreenHouse interview that was played for the jury,"
Williard called three witnesses to testify for Sherwood, one of whom testified via a Zoom video conference, Sherwood did not testify.
Because many court functions were shut down for much of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a trial backlog. The four Superior Court judges for the Conasauga Judicial Circuit, which includes Whitfield and Murray counties, added three trial weeks in June and July following the two weeks normally held in June, according to Poston. Trials will resume on July 12 and July 19 with Senior Judge Jack Partain presiding.
"This was the first of those weeks and Judge Salmon was brought in to preside," Poston said.
"Sherwood was in custody before trial since her arrest on July 1, 2019, and will remain in custody until sentencing," Poston said.