Nacogdoches woman found guilty of letting man have sex with girl

Debra Choate (Source: Trinity County Jail)
Debra Choate (Source: Trinity County Jail)

GROVETON, TX (KTRE) - A Trinity County jury deliberated for six hours and found a Nacogdoches woman guilty of letting a man have sex with a 13-year-old girl. The jury went into deliberation at 1:25 p.m. Thursday. They reached a verdict at 7:30 p.m.

Debra Bawcom Choate was indicted in 2012 for one charge of endangering a child, two charges of sexual performance of a child, and one count of conspiracy of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Thursday she was found guilty on two counts of sexual performance of a child; one count of conspiracy aggravated sexual assault of a child and one count of endangering a child.

The charges stem from two 2011 incidents in which Choate allowed a man she met on a dating site to have sex with a 13-year-old girl. Authorities said she had several talks with the man about the encounters with the child.

Her co-defendant, Scott Frels, is currently serving two 70-year terms of aggravated sexual assault of a child and a 20-year term for indecency with a child.

During the closing statements in the trial, the state argued that what Heath argued in the trial was a bunch of noise. Prosecutor Joey Robertson said that statements from Frels, the victim, and Frels' son were the evidence that the jurors needed to listen to.

Robertson asked why Choate would leave the victim with Frels if she wasn't involved in the incident. He also said that Choate was concerned about the victim drinking, so that the victim would be more willing to go with it.

During his closing arguments, defense attorney John Heath said Frels was a master manipulator.

He asked the jury why Frels would Choate and the victim out if he said he was not sexually attracted to either of them.

The defense attorney said that he is not trying to place any blame on the victim.

"She is a victim," Heath said. "I am not trying to underscore that."

Heath said that this story that the jury was told makes no sense and cannot be real.

"It doesn't make sense," Heath said. "There was no plan."

Before closing arguments, the day started with Heath questioning the victim's father.

The father said that the victim was not living with him at the time, but he made sure she knew she could stay there if needed.

"She was always welcomed," he said. "I made sure she knew the door was open for her."

The state had no counter questions, and Heath moved on to calling the victim to the stand.

Heath asked the victim one simple question.

"Did [Scott] Frels send you a text asking if, 'If you come over tonight, I want you?'" Heath asked.

The victim said, "Yes."

Choate's punishment will be determined Friday morning beginning at 9 a.m.

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