Taking the witness stand Thursday afternoon in Alcorn County Circuit Court to testify in his own defense, Nall denied that he had any improper contact with the granddaughter of Thomas and Marcia Mauney and also denied that he was constantly at their County Road 105 home.
“I don’t know why it happened,” he said, referring to the accusation against him. “I don’t blame [the child]. I don’t blame anybody … I’m hurt, but there’s no animosity.”
The child is now eight years old. The acts are alleged to have occurred between August 2012 and April 2013.
Nall said he decided to tender his resignation as pastor of Farmington Baptist Church on July 6 after living under the shadow of the accusation for 15 months. When it was first reported in 2013, he attempted to resign, but the church voted not to accept it at that time.
He is no longer preaching but is on the church payroll until the end of August.
With attendance and offerings declining, he felt it was best to go.
“There were those who felt they could not worship with this cloud … This gave the church an opportunity to start moving forward,” said Nall, who has also recently been employed as a Census field worker in Alcorn and neighboring counties but is currently on administrative hold for that job pending the outcome of this case.
An ordained minister since 1982, Nall said he first met the accusing family when one of the daughters came to vacation Bible school at Farmington Baptist a few years after he began preaching there. At that time, the Mauneys resumed attending the church occasionally.
At some point, the pastor began visiting with the Mauneys on a regular basis because of their health problems. He said the frequency was about once a week in early 2012 and later increase to a couple of times a week. Nall said he never visited every day or nearly every day as some prior testimony has suggested.
The Mauneys live not far from the church, and Nall said he would sometimes stop by because he “genuinely liked the family.”
The state’s case describes a scenario in which Nall would sit at the kitchen table with the Mauney’s granddaughter in his lap with the chair pulled very close to the table. He would allegedly slide his hand into her pants while they sat there. The child testified on Wednesday that it happened “every time.”
He said the first time he remembers the child sitting in his lap was on an occasion when he was talking with Thomas Mauney. She was sitting on Mauney’s knee and suddenly came over and climbed onto his knee, he said.
“And I’m thinking: What do I do about this,” said Nall.
He recalled that she was “very fidgety” and, after a few minutes, returned to Mauney’s knee.
Nall said she sat on his left knee, and it was not under the table.
He said he never inserted a finger into the child as described in the indictment. He said they were never positioned under the table and he does not know if it would have been possible because of his stature at 5 feet 11 inches and 215 pounds.
Nall also said he was never alone with the child.
In cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Greg Meyer questioned Nall’s ability to recall some of the details. He called attention to the fact that Nall could not name the location of a church in Kansas where he briefly preached in 2000.
Meyer also highlighted the preacher’s background, which includes stints at three different churches during a period from 1996 to 2000.
Also testifying for the defense Thursday was Kelly Thornton, a nurse practitioner with the Faith Family Clinics of Kossuth and Booneville, who conducted an examination of the child on May 5, 2013, several days after the complaint was filed with the sheriff’s department. Thornton said she has been doing sexual assault examinations for 20 years in cases that are more than 72 hours out from the incident.
Thornton said she found nothing unusual during the pelvic exam, including no evidence of anything traumatic having occurred and subsequently healed.
She said the child’s mother reported that her daughter had experienced recurring urinary tract infections and yeast infections, and she referred them to a urologist.
The table where all of the alleged abuse occurred was the focus of much discussion on Thursday. Judge James L. Roberts Jr. denied defense attorney Phil Hinton’s request to conduct a demonstration by bringing into the courtroom a replica of the Mauneys’ table.
Hinton said the court should allow the jury to get “a fair appraisal of what the scene looks like.”
Roberts said the photos of the actual table should suffice.
“I do not believe there is any way to accurately recreate that exact scene,” he said.
Hinton was allowed to introduce a series of photos taken in the Mauney home by certified legal investigator Terry R. Cox showing Nall seated at the table. The photos showed the defendant from the perspective of each of the other seats at the table.
Meyer argued that these photos show Nall positioned too far away from the table, given the prior testimony that he would position the chair as close as possible.
The trial resumes this morning and may extend into Saturday.