Trial brings excitement to Meadville

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2001

MEADVILLE – The small town of Meadville saw more than its usual amount of excitement Monday with the start of the Valley of the Kings sexual abuse case.

The trial, moved from Walthall County to Franklin County because of pretrial publicity, meant good business and extra traffic for the little town of less than 500.

&uot;Today was a good day. We had a lot of people. We had most of these tables full with dine-ins,&uot; said Emily Oliver indicating a set of 23 chairs at Laura’s Deli on Main Street in Meadville.

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Over the past few days, Oliver and her co-worker, Debbie Smallwood, said people had been through talking about the trial and commenting on the new menus the business prepared.

&uot;They were like you better take some to the courthouse,&uot; Smallwood said.

&uot;Because the trial’s coming up,&uot; Oliver finished for her.

She estimated between 50 to 70 people visited the deli Monday including a few wearing juror buttons.

&uot;That was real good considering we just opened,&uot; Oliver said.

The trial in question involves sexual charges against David Earl King, leader of the Valley of the Kings church-farm community, and his adopted son, Nathan Paul King

They are charged with sexual battery, conspiracy to commit sexual battery and contributing to the delinquency of a 14-year-old.

Nathan Paul King is also charged with sexual battery on another child, an 11-year-old boy.

A third defendant, Gary Bates of Denham Springs, La., who was accused of molesting the same 14-year-old boy, has entered a plea. The details of the plea have not been made public.

Because of the nature of the case, Franklin County Sheriff James Newman, said officials are taking extra security precautions.

&uot;We’re just taking precautions. You never know what’s going to come out of the woodwork on something like this,&uot; Newman said.

Officials are using a metal detector outside the courtroom and extra officers are watching the courtroom, Newman said.

One local resident, who would not give her name, said she did not see the point of bringing the case to Franklin County because of the financial cost to the community.

&uot;I just felt if they were going to have a change of venue, they should have moved it further away than this,&uot; she said.

Franklin County residents have heard about the case just like those in Walthall County, she said.

&uot;My personal feeling is if they can’t judge him over there, they can’t judge him here,&uot; she said.

Sharon Davis, an employee with the Franklin County Tax Assessor’s office, spent Monday watching the phone for the county’s circuit clerk office.

Its one available employee was busy with the trial that day. Many of the morning callers wanted to know if the trial was open to the public, she said,

&uot;Most of the calls are coming from Walthall County,&uot; she said.

Franklin County Sheriff’s&160;Deputy Cedric Middleton said the trial has caught the attention of many because of the change of venue and the charges involved.

&uot;Everybody’s talking about it,&uot; he said.

While Vickie Young, an employee of the county’s tax assessor’s office, said she had not heard a great deal about the trial but it was mentioned on the radio Monday morning.

The trial is expected to last for several days.