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Female Indiana County jail guard accused of trysts

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Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012

Three women claimed on Tuesday that they had sexual liaisons with a female guard in the Indiana County Jail while they were inmates.

Two inmates and one former inmate testified at a preliminary hearing that the sexual encounters spanned several months from 2009 to 2010.

Lane Shelstad, 29, testified she and guard Molly Gross, 43, of Ligonier began kissing as the prisoner was returning to her cell after showering.

"I didn't even think I was gay. But it's nice to get attention from someone no matter where you are when you're in a situation like that," testified Shelstad, who has a theft conviction. She was released from jail and then recently returned there for a probation violation for alleged possession of drug paraphernalia, court records show.

The Clymer inmate told Assistant District Attorney Matthew Ross that inmates gossiped about Gross' sexual relationships with several inmates and with another guard, Margaret J. Dailey, 51, of Indiana.

Clymer District Judge George Thachik ordered Gross to stand trial on charges of institutional sexual assault, terroristic threats and official oppression. In a separate hearing, the judge held for court charges filed against Dailey for terroristic threats against one inmate and official oppression.

Dailey, who was in a relationship with Gross at the time, became jealous and threatened one inmate that drew Gross' attention, according to testimony.

The guards, who have been suspended without pay, said they are innocent. Defense attorneys said the inmates concocted stories to seek retribution against the guards for performing their duties.

"Molly denies every bit of this. I've had inmates who have left the prison ... telephone me and tell me that these women are making all of this up," attorney Allen Roth said.

"They were scheming in there, " Roth said. "It will all come out at trial."

Dailey's attorney, Bob Bell, said testimony from one witness, inmate Miranda Smith, is insufficient to warrant criminal charges against his client.

Smith testified she received a threatening telephone call from Dailey when Smith was not in jail in the summer of 2010.

Dailey walked into a prison closet and discovered Gross with Smith in there "giggling," Smith testified

Smith, 30, of Indiana said she had been intimate with Gross in the fall of 2009 and Smith worried that Dailey would retaliate.

"(Dailey) told me that Molly and I could never have a normal relationship," Smith said.

After Smith was released from prison, she testified, she secretly met Gross for liaisons in her truck.

But Smith said she could not remember other encounters she previously described to state police. She could not recall alleged visits to Gross' homes and a 2010 graduation party Smith supposedly attended for Gross' son.

Former inmate Tammy Cravener, 28, of Kittanning, testified she and Gross would "kiss" and fondle in a closet and a bathroom at the prison.

Cravener, who was jailed for retail theft from September 2009 until March 2010, testified both areas were not covered by video-surveillance cameras.

Trooper Allison Goswick testified she discovered the alleged liaisons while investigating burglaries in the Indiana area. She was listening to a recording of a telephone conversation between inmate Misty Murphy, 31, of Indiana and a relative when Murphy mentioned inmates having sex with Gross.

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