Nacogdoches man on trial for kidnapping, rape of SFA student

Steven Sledge mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Steven Sledge mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.

BEAUMONT, TX (News Release) - By Donna McCollum - email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A jury has been selected to decide a verdict for a Nacogdoches man accused of kidnapping an SFA student and sexually assaulting her on a Nacogdoches County road.

Opening arguments in the case will begin at 2 p.m.

A deputy arrested Sledge for the crime on Dec. 13, 2009, after seeing a suspicious car on State Highway 7. He went to observe the car and the female victim mouthed the words "help me" to him.

Sledge is charged with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault.

Jurors were given a setting: the foggy, dreary day of Dec. 13 at Carl Monk overlook on State Highway 7 East. It's sunny today, but that doesn't brighten the allegations.

Sheriff's Deputy Earl Garner testified seeing a running and rocking pickup. The deputy immediately became suspicious.

He told jurors: "This is not the first time I've come up on people having sex, but they didn't act right."

"He discovered that it was occupied by a nude male and a partially clothed female," said Sheriff Thomas Kerss.

Garner testified the woman mouthed "help me" and shortly afterward said "he raped me," indicating to Sledge, when the truck door flew open.

The jury also watched dash cam video from the deputy's patrol unit.  Many people in the courtroom shed tears as they heard the voices of the alleged victim made it clear to the deputy something was wrong.

District Attorney Nicole Lostracco unwrapped a lengthy bowie knife found in the truck. It was allegedly held on the victim by Sledge as she was exiting SFA's Steen Hall earlier in the day.

Sledge's story to deputies was "what knife?" When fingerprinting was mentioned, Sledge acknowledged he had only moved the knife. Garner said Sledge told him he met the woman at a party where she directed him to drive to the park where they had sex.

Lostracco also called two campus police officers to the stand.  They described parts of their investigation, including what was found on surveillance videos from the area in and around Steen Hall.

The guilt or innocence of Sledge won't be determined until Wednesday, but news of the trial will shed light on the safety of university students, no matter what the verdict may be.

"A lot of girls, young ladies, when they come home at 2 or 3 in the morning will make sure they're safe, have an escort," said SFA Senior Chris Jackson.

The allegations are serving freshman Paige Gandy well.

"If you see somebody that doesn't look right, go the other way," said Gandy.

In the coming days jurors will decide if Sledge was so threatening that the victim simply couldn't go the other way.

Copyright 2010 KTRE. All rights reserved.