Marriage counselor deceived couple, prosecutor says at sexual assault trial

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- A marriage counselor accused of using counseling sessions to coerce a client into having sex with her is on trial this week on a charge of sexual assault.

Sheila Loven, 45, of Euless counseled an Arlington couple to the point of divorce, according to prosecutor Betty Arvin. Loven and the husband had sex for more than two months in 2009 before the couple compared notes and realized how she had deceived them, Arvin said in opening statements Tuesday.

Then, when the couple decided to reconcile, Loven barraged them with calls and text messages until they complained to Arlington police about harassment, Arvin said. After investigating, police concluded that harassment was not the appropriate charge and filed a sexual assault case with the Tarrant County district attorney's office.

"They didn't go running to the police yelling that he was sexually assaulted," Arvin told the jury. "They didn't know. Most people don't know. Not only was what Loven doing immoral and unethical, it was illegal."

Loven's attorney, Adam Burny, told jurors that the case was about romance and sex between consenting adults. There is no evidence of emotional coercion, Burny said. The husband and Loven were both in troubled relationships, and Loven reached out to the man as if he were a friend, Burny said. From there, romance blossomed.

"It had all the elements of any other romantic relationship," Burny said. "They went out to nightclubs and dinner, and they spent almost every night together. What you will not see in this case is any evidence of manipulation."

Arvin said the manipulation was manifest from the beginning. When the couple initially came in for counseling, Loven talked to them in the same room, Arvin said. Later, she saw them individually and counseled them separately to better collect their secrets, secrets they had kept from each other, Arvin said.

She denigrated them to each other, Arvin said. Finally, Loven advised the wife to get a divorce. Then she invited the husband on a date. They went to Cowboys nightclub in Arlington, drank and danced, and days later began having sex, an affair that lasted from the end of June until mid-September 2009, Arvin said.

Loven stopped office sessions with the husband but continued to have sex with him, while continuing to counsel his wife, Arvin said. Then one day, Loven acknowledged to the wife that the reason her husband had suddenly asked for a divorce after months of trying to make their marriage work is because he had found someone new -- and that was Loven.

The husband and wife reconciled and saw that instead of trying to help them, Loven was trying to drive a wedge between them.

"She was the ultimate inside trader," Arvin said. "She got information about their lives that they had never shared with anyone and she used it, she twisted it for her own sick reasons."

Testimony is scheduled to resume today in state District Judge Ruben Gonzales' court.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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