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Two Salem men charged in Bend rape case

Thursday, November 6, 2003

Staff Writer

A pair of Salem men were charged with sex crimes Nov. 3, just four days after the two placed newspaper advertisements proclaiming their innocence.

After spending approximately $1,000 for ads in an attempt to prove their innocence, Ken Clodfelter and Derry Reed were named as defendants in the rape trial of accused former Horseshoe Bend recorder/treasurer Chuck Simmons. The trial was slated to begin Nov. 3 in Cleburne County but was continued after additional charges were filed against five more suspects in the case.

Also charged were Bill O'Brien and William Les Dennison, both of Horseshoe Bend, and Jason Wilbanks of West Plains, Mo.

Simmons' attorney, Larry Kissee, filed a motion for continuance, saying he needed additional time to study the 17 charges against his client and the co-defendants.

Kissee also filed a motion to withdraw as attorney of record because Simmons has failed to pay his legal fees and because Kissee represents O'Brien in a separate civil lawsuit in conjunction with the criminal case.

Kissee said if O'Brien hires him to represent him in the criminal case it would be a conflict of interest to also represent Simmons.

O'Brien declined to comment on the case, but Kissee said O'Brien was shocked and upset after he learned of the charges against him.

Clodfelter and Reed purchased ads in The News and The Pacesetting Times, a weekly paper in Horseshoe Bend, the week prior to the filing of the charges. The ads purportedly contained the results of polygraph tests the two took which they said prove their innocence.

In a civil lawsuit filed in June 2001 families of the victims accused Clodfelter and Reed of sexually assaulting three boys and engaging in a sex ring conspiracy.

The ads contained two letters which contained a confidential report of the polygraph examination the pair underwent July 7. In the letters, sent confidentially by Gary W. Harp of Harp Polygraph Services in Fayetteville to attorney Joseph Paul Smith, Harp stated his opinion that Clodfelter and Reed were truthful in their answers to the questions asked.

During the examination both Clodfelter and Reed denied having ever had sexual contact with the victims, Derek DeSanto, Josh Dockins or Kyle Miller. They also denied having ever supplied drugs to the three victims or attending any party at which the three were present.

Clodfelter said he and Reed have been under the constant threat of charges by Special Prosecuting Attorney Lona Horn McCastlain. He said the charges filed are baseless against him and Reed and the two are trying to restore their reputations.

Clodfelter said he thinks the civil case and criminal case are motivated by money.

He claims he has tried diligently to resolve the civil case but others have been dragging their feet. "All of the accusations are fabricated," he said.

"It has virtually destroyed us," he said, adding that he and Reed are both on the brink of bankruptcy. Clodfelter said he lost his job in Salem as a result of the civil suit.

Clodfelter said both he and Reed know very little about what occurred at Simmons' house. He said he knew O'Brien and had met Wilbanks in passing, but didn't meet the others until the civil case was filed. He also denied that he and Reed were ever present during any social gathering at Simmons' house but he acknowledged that he knew Simmons.

Simmons was originally charged with two counts of rape. On Nov. 3 he was also charged with four additional counts of rape, one count of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of producing, directing or promoting a sexual performance.

O'Brien has been charged with two counts of rape, first-degree sexual abuse, third-degree carnal abuse and producing, directing or promoting a sexual performance.

Dennison has been charged with two counts of rape, and producing, directing or promoting a sexual performance.

Clodfelter is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit rape.

Reed is charged with two counts of rape, first-degree sexual abuse, and engaging children in sexually explicit conduct for use in visual or print medium.

Wilbanks is charged with three counts of rape, and producing, directing or promoting a sexual performance.

The new charges were filed after a four-year investigation after state police raided and seized a computer and other items from Simmons' home in Horseshoe Bend in November of 1999.

The first prosecutor in the case, Don McSpadden, said nude photographs of minors were found in the computer. McSpadden later requested another prosecutor handle the case because of differences with some of the victims' families. A change of venue was also granted from Izard County to Cleburne County because of death threats allegedly made against Simmons and massive publicity.

Simmons' arrest stems from an incident on Dec. 11, 2000, when a juvenile told Lorelei Sellers-Steele, Arkansas State Police investigator, that Simmons had sex with him at least 35 times from 1997 to 2000. The juvenile disclosed Simmons let him live with him for a three-year period.

During that period he said Simmons would get the juveniles drunk during parties at his home and perform sexual acts on him, according to the affidavit of arrest.

One of the victims in the civil case, Derek DeSanto, was found dead in the basement of his sister's home in the Lacrosse area of Izard County Jan. 28, 2003. The Arkansas State Crime Lab ruled the cause of death as suicide by hanging.

Kissee said a hearing is scheduled in Melbourne Nov. 12 for all the defendants to be arraigned.



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