Man deemed innocent after 3-year-old denies sex abuse

La Plata, MD - In most court cases, it is crucial that the testimony given is consistent to the charges the accused is facing. When your chief witness is a three-year-old boy, however, those challenges are magnified.

The Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office faced such a difficulty while prosecuting Joseph Dwayne Byard, 25 of Charlotte Hall, for sex abuse of a minor Tuesday, March 31.

The state’s case fell apart when the young victim denied allegations that Byard put his penis in his mouth.

Byard’s attorney, Charles County Public Defender Fred Lester asked Charles County Circuit Court Judge H. James West for a motion judgement for acquittal, which West granted.

All of this occurred after the child recanted testimony.

The second day of the trial began with Susan Shelders telling the court that the child was the son of her fiancé, Charles “C.J.” Marshall. She told the court that the boy knew of the defendant “through C.J.’s biological mother.”

She said she was potty training the boy in the bathroom when the child told her Byard had put his penis in the boy’s mouth and had him touch it.

“We were having a discussion talking about the difference between boys and girls and different body parts,” when the child made his disclosure, Shelders said.

After informing the child’s grandmother and C.J., she said they took the child to Dr. Silva’s and talked to law enforcement and St. Mary’s County Child Protective Services.

She also told the child’s paternal grandmother, but that the grandmother did not hear what the child said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Freeman asked the youngster what would happen if he told a lie.

“I get a time out,” the child said.

Freeman showed the boy an illustration of the human body and asked him to name parts. He was able to name eyes, ears, nose, neck, nipples and belly button. When the prosecutor pointed to a penis and asked the boy to name it, he responded, “tink tink.”

When she ventured into further questioning, however, things went awry.

“Do you know a Joe Joe?” Freeman asked.

“No,” the boy said.

“At your old house, did your momma have a boyfriend?” she asked.

“No,” he responded.

Freeman finally got the boy to admit he knew Joe Joe and that he called him by that name.

“Did you tell the policeman that Joe Joe was in the bathroom with you?” she asked.

“No,” he said.

“Did Joe Joe put his tink tink in your mouth?” she asked him.

“No,” he replied.

“Did Joe Joe ask you to touch his tink tink?” she asked.

“No,” again, was the answer.

“Are you scared right now?” she asked.

“No,” he said.

“Did you tell Miss Susan that Joe Joe put his tink tink in your mouth?” she prodded.

“No,” the child said.

Following the child’s testimony, Lester requested a motion judgement of acquittal, which the judge granted.

West told the jury, “this case is over.”

Contact Joseph Norris at

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