COVINGTON, La. — A 10-year-old boy from a broken home, left alone with then teenager Jack Strain.
The fifth and final man to accuse former St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain of sexually abusing him told a familiar story from the witness stand Thursday.
The fifth accuser, another relative of Strain’s said he came forward after seeing Mark Finn accuse Strain of rape on WWL-TV in 2019. According to the accuser, he heard family and friends mocking what Finn said and standing up for Strain. It filled him with anger and frustration and eventually led him to go to the St. Tammany District Attorney’s office and tell them his story.
When he was a child, the alleged victim grew up with his grandmother. He said Strain, who is four years older than him, would stay with them a couple times a year. On those visits, the boys would camp out in a tent. That’s where he says Jack Strain raped him.
Strain’s relative testified that Jack would take off his clothes and tell him to “relax” before penetrating him.
“I tried to get him off (of me),” he said, wiping a tear away. “I didn’t want it because I knew it was wrong.”
He said he’d run back to the house and bathe before anyone could see what happened, hiding his dirty clothes behind a false wall in the bathroom. He said he’d blocked out parts of those memories until he found his dirty underwear in that hiding spot as an adult.
His story is similar to most of those told from the witness stand this week by Jack Strain’s four other accusers. All of them were young boys when the alleged abuse started, they all had troubled home lives and they were all left alone with Strain. The fifth accuser’s story was unique in that he didn’t go through the grooming process the other four accusers testified they went through.
Dr. Scott Benton, an expert witness in pediatric forensics, testified to how the grooming process works. Dr. Benton observed all the alleged victims’ testimony from inside the court room and said that their stories are classic examples of grooming.
It starts with the abuser establishing a bond with the victim, usually through gift giving or sharing fun experiences with them that they couldn’t get elsewhere. Once a relationship is formed, Dr. Benton said the abuser will push the boundaries of what’s OK, seeing if the victim will keep their secrets and testing the waters of physical abuse to see how they react. Then the sexual abuse will begin.
Strain allegedly took all of his victims on hunting and fishing trips and also maintained a financial hold on them throughout their lives. All four victims included in the charges against Strain still kept in frequent contact with him as adults.
Dr. Benton said it’s common to see victims of sexual abuse who were groomed by their abuser never disclose the abuse. He said in most cases, grooming continues “until death” or the threat of the victim speaking out is gone. It’s how abusers keep their victims silent.
“Who would want to ruin such a relationship?” Dr. Benton said. “Let’s just accommodate what happened and not destroy what’s going on now.”
Dr. Benton’s testimony will continue Friday when the defense cross-examines him.
Strain faces four counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated incest, indecent behavior with a juvenile and sexual battery. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.