Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF BARRY COUNTY Honorable Robert E.
George, Associate Circuit Judge
WILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., P.J.
Selph ("Selph") was convicted, after a jury trial,
of four counts of the unclassified felony of statutory sodomy
in the first degree, and the class B felony of child
molestation. In two points on appeal, Selph asserts the trial
court erred in allowing the State to examine the forensic
interviewer regarding Victim's "tentative
disclosure," and allowing testimony of a detective that
Selph objected to as hearsay. Finding no merit to either
point, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
and Procedural Background
physically and sexually abused a child ("Victim")
for several years. On July 10, 2013, a family member of
Victim learned of a recent physical altercation between
Victim and Selph. The family member asked Victim whether
Selph had ever "touched her or done anything to her that
he should not be doing." Victim responded,
"Yes." Upon further questioning, Victim recounted
some of the physical abuse, but did not disclose the sexual
abuse. A hotline call was then made to the Division of Family
Services. Victim underwent a forensic examination the next
day. In the examination, Victim shared a few details about
the sexual abuse-she stated that Selph was touching her in a
sexual manner, and Selph was making her touch his genitals.
was interviewed by police following Victim's forensic
interview. Selph admitted that Victim had slept with him in
his bed, and he did not feel sexually fulfilled due to a back
injury and taking medication, which interfered with sexual
relations with his wife. Selph also told police he was
abusing his medication, it was a concern that things might
have happened that he did not remember clearly because of the
medication, he would have a "gut feeling" that he
did something wrong, and admitted he told a family member he
did not know what he did while on his medication. Selph
indicated several times that Victim "[was] not
lying" and that Victim "doesn't make these
things up." Selph never denied the allegations of sexual
March 2014, while visiting with the prosecutor, Victim
disclosed additional details of sexual abuse at the hands of
Selph. The prosecutor immediately scheduled Victim for a
second forensic interview, where Victim disclosed more
incidences of sexual abuse by Selph.
was charged by second amended felony information with three
counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree (Counts I,
III, VII); four counts of the class B felony of child
molestation in the first degree (Counts II, V, VI,
VIII); and one count of felony statutory rape in
the first degree (Count IV).
trial commenced on November 7, 2017. Among those testifying
were Victim, forensic examiner Melinda Ingram
("Ingram"), and Detective Brian Landreth
("Detective Landreth"). Selph testified in his own
testified that she had worked at the Lakes Area Child
Advocacy Center ("CAC") in Branson since 2001,
became its director in 2002, and a forensic interviewer in
2003. Ingram testified it was not unusual for a victim to not
immediately report that they had been sexually touched or
abused due to fear of not being believed, making someone mad
or upset with them, or having been threatened. It was also
not unusual for it to be days or even weeks before a victim
disclosed sexual abuse. Ingram stated it was rare that a
victim would "tell every single thing the first time[,
]" that disclosure is a process, not an event-it tends
to unfold over time. The following colloquy then took place:
[PROSECUTOR]: In your training and experience does the phrase
or words tentative disclosure have a particular meaning?
[PROSECUTOR]: What is that?
[INGRAM]: A tentative disclosure is - tentative means
hesitant or reluctant at first, unsure at first. A tentative
disclosure is when - in this context of a child, a child
would be feeling like they want to tell, but they're not
sure what the reaction of the adults around them, so they
might kind of test the waters, as they say, and see - you
know, tell just a little bit, see how the adults around them
are - what the reaction will be. And either disclose more or
withdraw, depending on - you know, if someone is very upset
they might back up and withdraw their disclosure. If they see
the world is going to continue on they might continue to let
that unfold and disclose more.
[PROSECUTOR]: In the course of your employment have you met
[INGRAM]: I have.
. . . .
[PROSECUTOR]: Do you know when the first time you met with
[PROSECUTOR]: When was that?
[INGRAM]: July 11, 2013.
. . . .
[PROSECUTOR]: [D]id she make some type of disclosure?
[PROSECUTOR]: And, generally, what was that disclosure?
[INGRAM]: The first time I met her she disclosed that [Selph]
made her touch his . . . private area. I think we used the
word private area in our interview. On multiple occasions.
And that he would touch her breasts on top of her clothing.
And that was the gist of the initial disclosure.
[PROSECUTOR]: Would there have been anything that you
observed based on your experience that you would have taken
that disclosure to be in the nature of a tentative
[INGRAM]: I did. I did.
[PROSECUTOR]: And why?
[SELPH'S COUNSEL]: Your Honor, may we approach?
BY THE COURT]: Yes.
(BENCH CONFERENCE ...