'If I ever told anybody, he'd cut my throat'


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Keith Poyadou
Keith Poyadou

BAY ST. LOUIS -- The trial for a Pearlington man accused of sexually assaulting a child began Wednesday with testimony from several expert witnesses.

Prosecutors laid out their case against Keith Anthony Poyadou, 21, charged with one count of sexual battery of a minor under the age of 14.

In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel told jurors they would hear the victim and several others give consistent testimony as to what happened on June 21, 2012, at a Hancock County residence.

Poyadou was 17 in June 2012 when he allegedly sexually assaulted his then 9-year-old cousin at a family member's home in Hancock County.

"It's something she will never forget," Daniel said to the jury.

In defense attorney Jim Davis' opening statement, he asked jurors to keep an open mind until the entire case is presented.

"Don't make a decision right off the bat," Davis said. "There are a lot of pieces missing and open in this case."

The victim, who is now 13, was the first to take the stand, though the courtroom was sealed during her testimony.

Jurors then heard from the victim's grandmother, a Hancock County sheriff's investigator, a forensic interviewer and emergency room staff from Hancock County Medical Center.

The investigator, recounting the victim's initial report, said Poyadou pulled the girl into her sister's bedroom, put his hand over her mouth and sodomized her.

Heather Windham, the ER nurse who handled the rape kit, said the victim arrived by ambulance about 1 a.m. June 22, 2012.

"She was afraid, tearful," Windham said. "She said, 'If I ever told anybody, he'd cut my throat.'"

Jurors also watched a video of the forensic interview, which showed the girl giving a detailed account of the assault.

"We're here because I was raped yesterday," the victim said, matter-of-factly. "I tried screaming for help, but he held me. He held my mouth closed ... He said, 'Don't tell anybody or I'll slit your throat.'"

The trial continues Wednesday.

After his initial arrest in 2012, Poyadou spent a few weeks in jail before posting a $100,000 bond. He has been free on bond since then. Circuit Judge Chris Schmidt is presiding over the trial.