Melvyn Sprowson took the stand Wednesday to tell his side of the story in his kidnapping and child porn trial.
Acting as his own defense, he told jurors and prosecutors he kept a 16-year-old girl in his apartment for about two months because he was afraid she would kill herself if he took her home.
The former Las Vegas kindergarten teacher said the fear of the girl’s suicide and the fear of his possible arrest led him to lie to authorities about her whereabouts four separate times.
“Since I was her boyfriend, I figured she would listen to me,” he said.
Sprowson, 48, is charged with four counts of unlawful use of a minor in the production of pornography, as well as one count each of first-degree kidnapping and child abuse or neglect. He faces the possibility of life in prison.
Prosecutors say he kept the girl away from her family and school in his apartment for nine weeks.
Sprowson said he never intended for the girl to stay as long as she did, claiming he did not want to upset her by taking her home.
“You were the adult in this situation. If you wanted her to go home, you could have driven her home,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth told Sprowson in an intense cross-examination.
He faced jurors as he testified, frequently flipping through a yellow notepad to remind himself of details to include in his narrative. He was not questioned by his standby counsel, a lawyer in the courtroom to provide guidance on request.
Sprowson met the girl through a Craigslist ad in August 2013. The two exchanged pictures and later met at a roller-skating rink. Not long after, the girl stayed at his apartment, and the two had sex, Sprowson said.
The girl’s mother later found out where she was staying and took her phone away as punishment.
Sprowson said the teen contacted him, saying she would kill herself if he did not pick her up. He later drove to her house to pick her up and told her to bring her Social Security card and birth certificate. He said he wanted to have those documents with him to identify her in case she hurt or killed herself.
Prosecutors say he instructed her to bring the documents so the two could eventually marry.
When Sprowson did take the girl outside his apartment, he dressed her in baggy clothes and baseball caps. He testified that, to keep her warm, he gave her baggy clothing his brother had gifted him earlier in the summer.
Sprowson turned red and wept as he talked about how the girl threatened to kill herself again after she returned home.
“I cared for her to the best of my ability,” he said, wiping tears from his cheeks.
Bluth questioned how much he was concerned for the girl’s safety if he left her alone in his apartment to go to work.
Sprowson and prosecutors rested their cases Wednesday. The jury is expected to hear closing arguments Thursday morning.