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Testimony Alleges Outsider Blew Whistle on Small-Town Sexual Abuse Case

September 2, 1991

FARMVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ Six weeks into the trial of a day-care owner accused of sexually abusing children, a prosecution picture is emerging of an outsider in a small town trying to blow the whistle on a well-known local family.

Audrey Stever, mother of a boy allegedly abused by Robert F. Kelly Jr. at the Little Rascals day care center, was the first parent to go to police. She said she discussed her allegations with others.

″I would say, ’Please, believe me. It’s not made up,‴ she testified last week. ″I had occasions where a parent would call and I’d tell them this was very serious and it was true.″

Mrs. Stever’s dance studio in Edenton was next door to the police station. When she began to suspect something was wrong at the day care, she discussed her concerns with her friend, Brenda Topping, a police officer who helped start the investigation.

She and her husband, Mark, had lived in Edenton about six years when the allegations of abuse surfaced in January 1989. They had sent their 3-year-old son to Little Rascals in October 1988.

The boy began therapy in January 1989 and talked about sexual abuse, Mrs. Stever testified.

Defense lawyers contended the child’s stories were based on conversations he heard before therapy sessions.

Kelly, 43, is being tried on 183 charges of sexually abusing 22 children at the day care center he owned and operated with his wife, Elizabeth. Mrs. Kelly and five others - two acquaintances and three former employees - also are charged with sexual abuse and face separate trials.

Testimony began Aug. 19.

A 5-year-old boy has testified that he was forced to perform oral sex and that Kelly inserted objects into his rectum. The boy also said he was thrown off a boat when Kelly took him for a ride.

Kelly has remained impassive through most of the testimony.

More children and parents are expected to testify. Prosecutors have said it could be December before they conclude their case.

Stever said last week that he worried that townspeople might turn against his family because the Kellys were well-connected in the coastal town of 5,000.

Mrs. Stever said her family was shunned. People who did speak to them asked what the Stevers were trying to do to the Kellys.

″I was like the plague,″ Stever testified of his visits to Chamber of Commerce socials. ″Nobody said a word to me. It was worse than being talked to.″

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