Grand jury does not indict ex-school janitor

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2001

A former McLaurin Elementary School janitor was not indicted by the Adams County grand jury on charge of molesting a 10-year-old girl. The grand jury returned a &uot;no bill&uot; on James Heckard’s charge of child molestation/touching for lustful purpose, said District Attorney Ronnie Harper.

He faces no further criminal action unless new evidence is discovered, Harper said.

Since grand jury proceedings are confidential, Harper could not comment on the specifics of the case and only grand jury members can be present for its discussions.

Heckard, 5 East Woodlawn St., was arrested in early November for allegedly molesting the child in a storage building outside the main school building.

The grand jury needed evidence that Heckard touched a minor to satisfy his own lustful desires with or without the child’s consent, Harper said.

Since Harper can not listen to the grand jury’s discussions, he could only speculate on its decision.

&uot;I would assume … from that they did not (believe) – although it may have been inappropriate – it was sufficient to prove these elements,&uot; Harper said.

According to Heckard, the gesture was just an act of friendship, Harper said.

&uot;Based on my understanding of the facts there was some evidence that he had touched her on the shoulder,&uot; Harper said.

He also may have sat her on his lap, Harper said. &uot;(The touching) was not indicative in and of itself of touching for lustful purposes,&uot; Harper said.

Heckard worked for the Natchez-Adams School District for five years as a janitor before being fired after his arrest.

Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis said the school district had to trust the judgment of the jurors.

&uot;We have to trust the evidence was brought forth in a truthful way,&uot; Davis said.

He was not prepared Thursday to comment on what the grand jury’s decision meant to Heckard’s future with the school district.

Heckard declined comment Thursday.