Jury finds Hawkins guilty in child sexual assault trial

House of Yahweh member faces life in prison

Abilene Reporte/October 28, 2008

A 42nd District Court jury returned a guilty verdict against Yedidiyah Hawkins on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child Monday.

The sentence, to be set by Judge John Weeks, is expected within 45 days. The charge, a first-degree felony, can range from five years to life in prison.

The jury deliberated 2½ hours before returning a verdict. Hawkins, a leader of the House of Yahweh compound in Callahan County, showed little reaction to the verdict.

The courtroom, which seats 48, contained approximately 75 spectators much of the day, including when the verdict was announced. Many were representatives of Bikers Against Child Abuse, a support group for sexually abused children and their families.

The girl, 11 at the time of the assault, testified Friday that her stepfather, Hawkins, 40, used a vaginal speculum -- a medical instrument used by gynecologists -- to perform an examination on her. Though the victim was identified in court proceedings, it is the policy of the Reporter-News not to name victims of sexual assault.

The assault occurred in the home of Rachel Hawkins, who at the time was a member of the House of Yahweh. Rachel Hawkins had gone shopping in Dallas for the weekend, the girl said.

Prosecutor Shane Deel said during his opening statement that Yedidiyah Hawkins knew that the home of Rachel Hawkins, who has since left the sect, would be empty for the weekend.

Several defense witnesses testified that the girl who brought the accusations previously had admitted to them that the allegations were untrue.

Rebekah Hawkins, 16, Batashua Hawkins, 15, and Erica Hawkins, 16, all associated with the House of Yahweh, testified Monday morning in the trial at the Taylor County Courthouse.

Rebekah Hawkins said she had heard the accuser speak of abuse for at least five years. However, when Rebekah challenged her, she "almost always said it wasn't true," Rebekah Hawkins testified.

Batashua Hawkins said the girl told her Yedidiyah Hawkins was "putting things inside me." Batashua further testified that the girl didn't mention it again and that it didn't seem to bother her. The girl had said she hated her dad (Yedidiyah Hawkins) because he wouldn't let her do things. When asked if the girl could be called rebellious, Batashua chuckled and said, "Yes."

Erica Hawkins said she and the accuser were "really close" until about a year ago. She then presented an emotional plea of Yedidiyah Hawkins' innocence.

"She (the accuser) told me she was lying," she said. "He's innocent, and he's spent a year in jail."

All three mentioned spending time in a pink trailer or building at the Yahweh complex near Clyde. Attorneys painted a picture of the trailer being used as a punishment for running away or other offenses. Erica remembered spending a night there, but not as punishment.

"It was like a slumber party; we weren't being punished," she said.

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