Testimony in the preliminary hearing involving Grove man will take place using alternative methods, after a ruling last week by a Delaware County judge.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, Delaware County Special Judge Alicia Littlefield, ruled in favor of a motion presented by Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Bush that the child involved in the case could testify without Aaron Bratcher in the room.

Bratcher, a former daycare owner and Boy Scout leader, was arrested by members of the Grove Police Department on Friday, March 17, on rape and lewd molestation charges involving a 5-year-old girl.

In her ruling, Littlefield said she believed Bush had presented the necessary evidence as required by state statute to prove the child would suffer "additional trauma" by testifying in a typical courtroom setting.

Littlefield said during the child's testimony in the preliminary hearing, set for 10 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12, Bratcher will be moved to the nearby jury room - with contact available with his attorney via Skype. 

In her ruling, Littlefield said Bratcher would still have a "full and fair" opportunity to have his lawyer, Winston Connor II, conduct cross examination of the witness. 

Littlefield did not rule in Bush's favor regarding her request to close the courtroom for the child's testimony. However, she did indicate access to the courtroom may be limited.

"With a child victim, I generally do not allow a lot of people in [the courtroom]," Littlefield said.

She did rule in favor of Connor's request to sequester witnesses, which means the advocate for the child cannot be a person on the witness list - such as the director, forensic interviewer or her therapist from the Delaware County Children's Special Advocacy Center.

The motion hearing included testimony by Leigh-Anna Miller, therapist with DCCSAN, and opportunities for questioning of Miller by Connor, Bush and the child's court-appointed attorney Joy Jones.

Following the hearing, Bush said this is the first criminal case in recent history, involving a child testifying, which will include testifying by alternative methods.

More about the case

According to Detective Mark Sheridan with the Grove Police Department, Aaron Matthew Bratcher was arrested for two felony charges: rape by instrumentation and lewd molestation.

The charges, Sheridan said, stem from an incident which allegedly took place at Noah's Ark Childcare and Learning Center, also known locally as Miss Debbie's Noah's Ark Childcare, while Bratcher was the owner and director.

According to the affidavit for arrest, filed in Delaware County District Court by Sheridan, the victim reported in January Bratcher — identified as "Uncle Guy" — allegedly molested her while she was sitting on his lap. 

Sheridan indicated that during the interview with a forensic interviewer with the Delaware County Children's Special Advocacy Network, the child disclosed the incident took place while she and her brother were the only children at the facility.

Sheridan said during an interview with Bratcher on Jan. 20, the man denied the allegations. Sheridan said Bratcher's denials were "very weak in nature," and that Bratcher did not have an explanation for why the victim would make the allegations. 

At the time of the incident, Bratcher and his wife, Samantha owned and operated Miss Debbie's Noah's Ark Daycare on North Main in Grove. He sold the facility in December 2016. It has since ceased operation.

He was also a volunteer scout leader with Cub Scout Pack 713 and Boy Scout Troop 713, chartered through First United Methodist Church, of Grove.