A new trial has been ordered for a Mount Airy man who was sentenced to up to 70 years in prison in 2009 for alleged sexual abuse of a child.
This resulted from a recent ruling by the N.C. Supreme Court that an error occurred during the November 2009 trial of Patrick Loren Towe. The decision stems from the admission of testimony by a medical witness, which the Supreme Court ruled “probably” would have produced a different outcome in the case had it not been allowed.
As it happened, a Surry County Superior Court jury found Towe, then 38, guilty on two counts of first-degree statutory rape of a child under 13 and three counts of first-degree statutory sexual offense involving a child under 13.
Judge Ronald E. Spivey sentenced Towe to 346 months to 425 months for the two rape charges, and imposed an identical term for the first-degree sex offenses which were to run consecutively to the other sentence. This meant that Towe stood to serve a minimum term of almost 58 years in the state prison system and possibly more than 70.
The charges stemmed from alleged incidents that occurred in Mount Airy about two years before the trial, involving a girl who was 9 years old at the time.
Towe — whose address has been given as 341 Franklin St. — appealed his conviction.
Initially, the state Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in the defendant’s favor that a significant error had been committed which likely led to Towe being found guilty. The appeals court reversed Towe’s conviction and ordered that he receive a new trial.
The N.C. Supreme Court affirmed that decision in its ruling filed last month.
Prison records show that Towe was released from the state penal system earlier this month.
He is now being held in the Surry County Jail awaiting the new trial, according to Capt. Alan Freeman of the Mount Airy Police Department, who investigated the allegations against Towe in his previous job as a city detective.
“They say it’s going to be sometime this year,” Freeman said of the second trial.
The 20-page decision issued last month by the N.C. Supreme Court, obtained Thursday by The Mount Airy News, shows that the trial error stemmed from testimony by Dr. Vivian Denise Everett during Towe’s 2009 trial.
She said the alleged victim in the Towe case fit into a category of sexually abused children who do not exhibit physical signs of such abuse.
Everett had been called as a witness by the state and recognized as an expert in the field of pediatrics and child sexual abuse, court documents show. The doctor’s testimony was based on an examination of the alleged victim in 2007.
Although Everett said on the stand there was a lack of physical evidence to indicate the girl had been abused, she added that this “would not be inconsistent with sexual abuse.”
The witness further testified that 70 to 75 percent of children who are sexually abused have no “abnormal findings.” Her testimony was based on information about the girl’s history which had been relayed by her mother and on statements by the alleged victim herself.
Both the appeals court and Supreme Court found that the trial court erred in admitting the doctor’s testimony.
Other witnesses, including Towe’s girlfriend and one of his sons, said they had never noticed any inappropriate contact between the defendant and the alleged victim.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.