Sex abuse case in jury’s hands after two-week trial in Nevada County Superior Court |

Sex abuse case in jury’s hands after two-week trial in Nevada County Superior Court

The two-week long trial of a Nevada City man on charges of sexually abusing two young girls ended Thursday with closing arguments.

The jury did not reach a verdict that afternoon and is scheduled to resume deliberations today.

Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Helenaz Hill told the jury that 46-year-old Michael Sean O’Dell had touched the two girls multiple times over a two-year period. Hill called the two girls, 6 and 8 at the time, “the perfect victims,” adding that O’Dell acted as a father figure to them, gained their trust and took advantage of that trust.

O’Dell’s defense attorney, Patrick Clancy, laid out his argument for the first time since the trial began, after choosing not to make an opening statement.

“I consider closing to be the jigsaw (puzzle),” he said. “This is my time to put it all together.”

Clancy strove to convince the jury it could not find his client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, citing character evidence and a “caution sign” of testimony about O’Dell’s guilt from only the two girls.

He acknowledged that trials on child sex abuse charges can be emotional and overwhelming.

“The first thing I’m going to ask you is to calm your emotions down, and start thinking,” Clancy said.

During the trial, O’Dell testified that one of the girls had straddled his arm while he was sleeping on the couch, and that he had told her not to do that. O’Dell’s wife then had conducted a “good touch, bad touch” lesson with her.

“I said, that’s not how we sit on people,” he testified.

According to Hill, that incident had not come up during initial interviews, and she suggested O’Dell made it up. But Clancy told the jury O’Dell’s wife did bring it up at the time of his arrest, as did his mother-in-law.

Clancy said the two girls were “emotionally damaged,” and formed a “toxic mix” when together at the O’Dell residence. Their stories regarding the molestation were not believable, he said, adding they destroyed each other’s credibility.

Hill responded to Clancy’s characterization of O’Dell as a good Christian who never acted inappropriately with children by reminding the jury, “We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors … We never know every aspect of someone’s life.”

Hill said the girls’ testimony showed a much darker side to the defendant, adding, ”The defense wants you to engage in imaginary doubt.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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