UPDATE: 83-year-old man indicted on sexual battery charges - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: 83-year-old man indicted on sexual battery charges

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RHEA COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - An 83-year-old Rhea County man has been indicted for sexually assaulting an 82-year-old woman. Harold Suttles is charged with sexual battery. Investigators say he is accused of assaulting the woman at a Dayton nursing home.

Channel 3 will not disclose the identity of the victim but her attorney says she is an 83-year-old woman. He says his client has dementia but is clear on reporting what happened. Investigators say Harold Suttles admitted to two separate incidents with the woman at the Life Care Center in Dayton but her attorney believes there were probably more.

"I think the most disturbing thing is the fact that somebody would take advantage of someone who is obviously elderly and wouldn't be in the facility unless she needed somebody to care for her and watch over her," says Attorney Lee Ortwein.

Lee Ortwein represents the 82-year-old woman who lives at the Life Care Center in Dayton.

"There's probably two types of people that society is most outraged when something happens to them. It's the very young and the very old," says Ortwein.

Rhea County investigator Rocky Potter says staff at the center contacted the sheriff's office in October on reports a patient had been assaulted by 83-year-old Harold Suttles.

"He was known there as a frequent visitor," says Potter.

A nurse told him she walked into the victim's room to find Suttles standing over her bed "adjusting the front of his pants." The 82-year-old woman told her Suttles asked her to touch him and she complied.     

"He had been coming up there for a couple of years, had a family member who was there. He came about five or six days a week and was an acquaintance of the resident that was assaulted," says Potter.

A grand jury indicted Suttles December first. He was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual battery. Potter says he admitted to the act.

"There was more than one occurrence that Mr. Suttles had told me about," says Potter.

"Obviously there's some sort of gap in the security at the facility," says Ortwein.

Channel 3 spoke with the executive director at the center. She said she could not comment on the case. She would only say that her staff notified investigators immediately as soon as they found out what happened.

"They did a very good job," says Potter. "They did everything, I'm sure, to protocol, or what their regulations were."

"I believe that there are more events because the indictment covers more than a year's time period," says Ortwein.

Suttles has since bonded out. Channel 3 stopped by his house and he referred us to his attorney who we have not heard back from. His next court date is January 12th.

Statement from Harold Suttles attorney

Harold Suttles is presumed innocent under Tennessee law. It is far too early to emblazon the 'scarlet letter' on this 83-year-old law abiding resident of our community. Mr. Suttles has long been a highly respected citizen.

The Government's indictment is not evidence. The only evidence that matters is that which will be presented at the trial of this case. 

Furthermore, Mr. Suttles has not been accused of forcing anyone to engage in sexual contact but rather the Government accuses him of using bad judgment. Mr. Suttles earnestly looks forward to clearing his name.

In the interim I would ask that his right to privacy be respected and let this matter be handled solely in the court system.


Andrew S. Cunnyngham

Andrew S. Cunnyngham

Attorney at Law

(423) 316-1489

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