LOCKPORT, NY - A defendant on trial for child sexual abuse charges left the Niagara County courthouse Wednesday afternoon and has not been seen since.
Paul Turley, 47 of Dunkirk, is accused of molesting two girls in a North Tonawanda case that dates back nearly to the 1990s.
The trial continues to proceed without him. The $50,000 bail posted on his behalf has been revoked.
While there are many questions surrounding this case, the judge has placed a gag order on it.
"The defense attorney is at an extreme disadvantage," said Andrew LoTempio, a former Buffalo judge and a current defense attorney. He says child abuse cases are traditionally tough to defend against and that the disappearance has created another problem. He adds that the prosecution's case will rely heavily on credible witnesses, if it doesn't have overwhelming evidence.
"It's going to boil down whether they believe these victims who may not be that young anymore, if they believe them, then it is a slam dunk," he said.
Thursday in court, jurors heard how relatives of the two accusers rallied behind them in Nov. 2011. Testimony showed that the alleged victims were preparing to come forward about what they say happened to them when they were girls. Loved ones say a family meeting was setup and both women revealed their stories to police.
The case is still being tried under what's known as Parker Warnings, which is an agreement that says trial will still continue even if the defendant is not there.
Defendants are asked to sign that agreement and Turley did.
Before the gag order, Turley's attorney told The Buffalo News that Turley was frightened to go to jail and that yesterday he was in a parking lot away from the courthouse.
Testimony is expected to resume Friday morning with or without Turley.
Authorities are looking for him. If convicted, he could get nearly 40 years in prison.