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Officer cleared of wrongdoing in alleged rape

4-1-2010 Georgia:

A Dalton police officer who committed suicide last year just hours after being accused of raping a woman has been cleared of all wrongdoing, authorities said Wednesday.

Robert Paul Sparks, 54, was in the Dalton Police Services Center on Jones Street when he shot himself near daybreak on the Saturday morning of Jan. 10, 2009. While on duty earlier that morning, he had responded to a Whitfield 911 call at 1:30 a.m. of two women fighting at the Oyster Bar at 2206 Chattanooga Road, and went with one of the women, Frankie Diane Cross, to her room at the Guest Inn behind the restaurant to retrieve her identification. Sparks was accused by Cross of rape in a call to 911 at 3:22 a.m.

District Attorney Kermit McManus said the police department asked him to evaluate the completed Georgia Bureau of Investigation report, and he found “insufficient evidence” to prove Sparks “engaged in criminal sexual activity.” He also said there was not enough evidence to charge Cross with making false statements, although it was “clear,” he said, that she made statements that are “false as they are inconsistent with other statements made.”

Vivian Sparks, the mother of Paul Sparks, said the death of her son and ensuing investigation have been “awful” for her family to bear.

“Before, it just seemed he was guilty before anybody knew any of the circumstances,” she said of the lengthy investigation. “Even though he’s been found (to have done) no wrongdoing, nothing’s going to be done to her. I think that is wrong that no one is held responsible.”

Sparks said the wait for the findings has been “terrible” for her and especially her 27-year-old grandson, Sparks’ son.

“This has been 14-and-a-half months — 64 weeks, I’ve been counting the weeks — it’s just been an awful time for all of us,” she said.

McManus said there were so many versions of what happened that night it made the case hard to evaluate for possible prosecution against Cross — who he said was “intoxicated” — for making a false statement. After a second 911 call, Sgt. Chip Whitfield reported Cross was “stating openly” that she was raped. But when GBI special agent Daniel Sims interviewed Cross “within hours” of the initial claim of rape, he said she mentioned “acquiescence” on her part based on Sparks’ alleged statement that he “could take her to jail,” presumably referring to the altercation at the Oyster Pub.

“In her interview with Agent Sims, while recounting sexual intercourse with Officer Sparks, she did not claim to have been raped, indeed, she stated, ‘if she did not want it to happen she would not have let it happen,’” McManus wrote.

“The evaluation of this case showed several versions of what took place that night in terms of any sexual contact,” McManus said on Wednesday. “(Cross) consistently said that there was sexual interaction between she and Officer Sparks of a consensual nature in the interviews that she gave. The description of that was different from one version of the story to another. The first thing that we had to determine was — based on the evidence in this case — is there sufficient information or evidence to show did sexual contact occur between the two of them? (The GBI) began to question her credibility to start off with, and the fact that the info from the crime lab did not support any of those stories makes it difficult, if not impossible, to prove that contact occurred ... whether or not such contact occurred may never be known ... the physical evidence is inconclusive.”

Cross, who said she has had nightmares about that evening, was contacted by phone on Wednesday.

“It’s over with, I just want to forget it,” she said. “I hate that all of it happened, I mean, I’m still having a lot of nightmares about it. Everybody’s talking about pressing charges, pressing charges. No, I just want to forget it. I just want it to be over with.”

Cross was asked if she felt things got out of control that night.

“Everything just happened so fast,” she said. “To be honest with you, I was half-there and half-wasn’t. I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what to think, everything just hit me all at once ... I’m glad it’s over with. He done what he done, but that’s one thing I’m not regretting. You know, I’m going to have to live with it the rest of my life. But everybody at church and everything, they’ve been a big help on me through al this. I don’t think about it as much as I used to, but it still hits me from time to time.”

Sparks said she knew “in the beginning” her son “did not hurt anybody or force anybody.”

“But from all the things they were saying, I couldn’t tell what happened,” she said. “But I knew, I knew Paul would never hurt anybody. He was a wonderful person and had so many friends. He made people feel good, people loved him.

“I know the GBI and Dalton Police did a thorough investigation. No evidence was found that would incriminate him in any way, and I just can’t understand. I mean, his death was caused by the false charges, and the individual who made those statements is not going to be held accountable for their actions and it’s just not fair. That’s not justice, is it? The main thing to me was to clear his name, as much as possible.” ..Source.. by Mark Millican

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