NWGA Scanner | November 2nd, 2021

Chatsworth man convicted of aggravated child molestation, sentenced to life in prison

October 29, 2021 (Chatsworth) – William Dean Hansbarger (44), formerly of Chatsworth, was found guilty today by a Murray County jury of the offenses of aggravated child molestation, child molestation, and incest involving the sexual abuse of two young children. The jury was selected on Monday with Superior Court Judge Scott Minter presiding. The State’s case was presented by assistant district attorney and chief child abuse prosecutor Ben Kenemer. Hansbarger was represented by the Public Defender’s Office. Kenemer called 16 witness during the week-long trial including both victims and representatives of the Murray County Sheriff’s Office, Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Murray Medical Center, Murray County Schools, the Department of Family and Children Services, the Family Support Council, and the GreenHouse Child Advocacy Center and Sexual Assault Center. Closing arguments started at 9:00 AM this morning after which Judge Minter instructed the jury and sent them out to deliberate mid-morning. The jury was out for one hour before returning a verdict of guilty on all counts. Following a short break, Judge Minter proceeded to a sentencing hearing and sentenced the Defendant to serve life in prison on the aggravated child molestation count plus additional time on the other charges to run concurrent. Hansbarger will not be eligible for parole until he has served 30 years in prison. The first victim reported the abuse in 2017 after reading a Darkness to Light training document concerning child abuse. Darkness to Light (d2l.org) is an organization that works to prevent child abuse by teaching adults how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. A family member of the child had taken the training and brought home the document. Prior to seeing that training material, the child did not realize that what the defendant was doing was wrong and needed to be reported. The child later disclosed to a school counselor. After an initial investigation, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to move forward at that time. But then a second victim came forward in 2019 and the case was reopened. After further investigation by Eric White, currently of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, but at the time a Detective with the Murray County Sheriff’s Office, the case was presented to the Murray County grand jury and an indictment returned. Key evidence in the case including a medical finding of abuse based on an examination of the second victim at Murray Medical Center, and forensic interviews of both children conducted by the GreenHouse. It was also extremely helpful to have the testimony of Mary Smith with the Family Support Council who explained the Darkness to Light training program and how children respond to and disclose child abuse. One of the purposes of the Darkness to Light training for adults is to help those who work with and around children understand that there is not one correct way that children respond, behave, or act when they have been abused. All children are different and may exhibit a wide variety of coping mechanisms in these situations. The Defendant called four witnesses and testified in his own defense yesterday afternoon. He denied the allegations and claimed innocent contact that was simply misunderstood. But under cross examination by Kenemer, Hansbarger tried to avoid answering certain questions and had to be ordered to answer by Judge Minter. Ultimately, the jury did not find his explanations credible. Child molestation cases are challenging to prosecute so the District Attorney’s Office would like to thank the jury for their service and attention to the evidence. Seven of the jurors opted to remain for sentencing and some stayed and spoke to Agent White afterwards. We would also like to thank all of those agencies who helped investigate and present the case this week for their work. Using a team approach in these investigations minimizes the trauma to child victims and makes a just and correct outcome more likely.