A Bridge City man was convicted Thursday night (Jan. 26) of sexually abusing a young girl over a period of five years, ending with her mother’s discovering his deeds when the victim was 14 years old.
Trevor Clifton, 37, faces 25 years to 99 years in prison for his conviction of two counts of sexual battery in connection with the abuse he meted out to the child with whom he was acquainted. The victim is not being identified.
The victim’s mother caught Clifton abusing her daughter on Oct. 2, 2015. After confessing to committing only one sexual act, he obtained a knife and threatened to cut his own throat.
The mother called the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office to report the crime, leading Clifton to flee with the knife. Deputies conducted a manhunt that involved searches by electronic means involving his cell phone and license plate recognition cameras.
Two days later, Detectives Donald Zanotelli and Gabe Faucetta tracked Clifton to a woman’s home in the 400 block of MacArthur Boulevard in Harvey.
The woman, with whom Clifton fathered a child and had an ongoing relationship, initially would not let deputies into her home. After gaining entry, the deputies found Clifton hiding behind a refrigerator, still holding a knife.
During the manhunt, detectives spoke with Clifton’s sister, who said her brother told her that the victim raped him and that the entire incident was a misunderstanding.
However, on the day the abuse was discovered, the victim was taken to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. No sign of physical abuse was discovered, as is often the case in child sexual abuse cases.
But the child disclosed the abuse to hospital staff, and DNA belonging to a male was recovered from the victim’s genitals. While the donor’s gender was determined, the amount of genetic material was insufficient for DNA analysts to identify a specific person.
The victim initially only partially disclosed the extent of the abuse. Through interviews with JPSO Personal Violence Detective Kay Horne and to a forensic interviewer at the Jefferson Children’s Advocacy Center, the victim disclosed that Clifton began abusing her when she was about 9 years old and that Clifton threatened her to get her to submit to the acts. The jury heard expert testimony on how young sexual abuse victims delay in reporting the crimes.
Through his attorneys, Clifton denied the accusations. His attorneys argued that witnesses lied about the crimes, and that detectives were sloppy and rushed the investigation.
Assistant District Attorneys Matt Clauss and Josh Vanderhooft prosecuted the case.