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YOUNGSTOWN Defendant testifies in sexual abuse case



Published: Wed, July 31, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Jurors were to resume deliberation this morning.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Larry Sapp sobbed loudly as he recalled the day he "lost it" when he saw a group of boys groping a teenage girl on a trampoline in his yard.

"They had their hands where they shouldn't be," he said.

He angrily sent the boys home, which set off a fiery confrontation with the girl, to whom Sapp is related.

He said she threatened to make him sorry for embarrassing her in front of her friends.

That, the Struthers man said, is what caused the girl to accuse him of sexually abusing her. He's on trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, charged with several counts of rape and gross sexual imposition.

Jurors deliberated nearly an hour Tuesday before being sent home for the day by Judge R. Scott Krichbaum. They were to resume this morning.

His story

For nearly an hour Tuesday, Sapp, a slightly built cement finisher with a thick brown mustache and thinning dark-brown hair, told his side of the story from the witness stand.

He sobbed repeatedly during his testimony while being questioned by his attorney John B. Juhasz.

But during cross-examination by Assistant Prosecutor Deena Calabrese, Sapp was stoic and matter-of-fact.

Sapp said he's a former Sunday school teacher and youth pastor at a Deerfield church.

"I taught the children morals," he said.

He also coached several youth sports teams until other parents refused to let their children participate because of the charges against him.

Sapp said he was shocked when he learned of the allegations against him.

When Calabrese asked why Sapp hadn't told Struthers police about the trampoline matter when he was arrested, he said its significance didn't dawn on him until later.

Sapp's wife, Debbie Sapp, testified that she believes Sapp committed the acts of which he's accused but still allows him to be around their children.

The girl testified last week that the abuse began when she was about 10 and ended in October 2000, when she spoke out. Sapp denied the accusations.

He said he might have inadvertently touched her in private areas while they were wrestling or "playing tickle," but never did it intentionally.

bjackson@vindy.com




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