Prosecutors yesterday said a man "took away the innocence and destroyed the childhood" of a dozen Carroll County children -- including his son and daughter -- that he is accused of molesting over the past five years.
"After you hear the evidence, do what is right, do what is just, and do what is fair," Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill told the Carroll jury hearing the man's case, which began yesterday.
"Find the defendant guilty of these charges."
The man faces multiple counts of second-, third- and fourth-degree sexual offense, battery, perverted practice and child abuse.
If convicted on all counts, he could receive prison terms totaling more than 500 years.
The man's attorney, Stephen R. Tully of Baltimore, asked the jurors to hear the entire case and then ask themselves why prosecutors had to present all 12 accusers at once instead of separately in different trials.
"Why is the state bringing before me so many cases?" he told the jurors to ask themselves. "Does the state have enough evidence?"
Last week, Mr. Tully lost a key legal motion on behalf of the defendant when a Circuit Court judge ruled that he had not asked early enough to have the case separated into different trials for each accuser.
That ruling allowed prosecutors to present evidence tied to all of the accusers at one trial.
"The state's going to try and confuse you," Mr. Tully said. "For what reason, you can think about during this trial."
Several of the girls the man is accused of molesting took the stand yesterday. They told the panel of seven men and five women that they were fondled in the man's home on several occasions.
One of the accusers, now 9, described how she remembered the man molesting her at his house while his two young children were there. "I was scared," she said.
In addition to testimony from the accusers -- who range in age from 5 to 11 -- prosecutors also plan to present statements the man made to investigators last year.
In those statements, the man allegedly told investigators he had been abusing some of the children for several years.
Investigators have called the case one of the worst child sex abuse cases they have seen in Carroll County.
In June, the defendant turned down a plea bargain that would have limited his sentence to about 30 years in state prison.
The man's name and address are being withheld to protect his children's privacy.
The trial was expected to continue today in Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr.'s courtroom.