News 12 at 6 o' clock/ Friday, Oct. 4, 2013
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- A former 4-H leader accused of molesting a 15-year-old girl has been cleared of all charges. And she's telling her story to News 12's Laura Warren.
Jennifer Davenport says, "It's just like, is this really happening? Is this a nightmare? Can I wake up from this?"
Her world turned upside down at the end of March when one of her 15-year-old 4-H'ers accused her of molestation.
She says, "The alleged victim's mom called my boss and told her she was going to the authorities because she suspected something."
Confused and terrified, Jennifer slowly watched her world go up in smoke. She says, "I just felt like I was helpless."
4-H has been Jennifer's entire life. She's been a member since 5th grade, served as a camp counsleor for four years in college, and landed her dream job as a Program Assistant in Columbia County last year, doing what she loves: working with youth.
" I would hang out with them, go to all their plays, sporting events, I was even invited on weekend trips with some of their families, I was just a part of everybody's family pretty much," she explains.
But that big sister relationship Jennifer shared with so many students backfired on her, she says, when one student got jealous.
"She had shown a few times that she had gotten jealous which is natural for a 15-year-old girl in high school, you know all the kids loved me, so I tried to divide my time out," she says.
But, it was hard giving this particular student all the time she demanded.
Jennifer says, "My guess, is that she got upset about that, and took it out in this way and told her mom whatever she told her that day."
She worried that aggravated sexual battery charges, aggravated child molestation charges, an orange jumpsuit, and a mugshot splashed on the news and social media would convict her in the public eye, even though she knew in her heart it was all a lie.
She says, "It pierced my heart. That was really not something I was expecting. People saying I should be thrown under the jail, without even knowing any part of the story."
The trial wasn't any easier, as she faced her accusers in court.
"It was really hard not to say anything, because I would be in contempt of court, but not to say anything when they were up there lying about things they had said in previous statements."
A jury declared Jennifer not guilty. Now, she's trying to put her life back together, relying heavily on her faith.
"One day, I hope I can tell her in person that I forgive her, and I forgive her family, but whether it's here or in heaven, I don't know,' she says.