Fort Worth trial of former marriage counselor rife with lurid testimony

Posted Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- One text message read: "When are you going to figure out you are nothing without me. I made you into a man."

A message to the man's wife read: "And then he talks about your body so bad while he's touching every inch of mine."

A Tarrant County prosecutor read a series of text messages in court on Wednesday -- some of them threatening, some denigrating, others profane -- and told jurors that they were sent by a Euless marriage counselor to an Arlington couple who had come to her to try to save their unhappy marriage.

The now former counselor, Sheila Loven, 47, is charged with sexual assault, accused of using her influence as a professional counselor to coerce the husband into having sex.

The maximum sentence is 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Loven and the husband had sex over the course of more than two months in 2009 before the husband and his wife compared notes and realized that Loven had deceived them, according to testimony.

Many of the texts became threatening after the couple complained to Arlington police that they were being harassed. They also complained to the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists and to Loven's supervisors.

"I hope you enjoyed your lunch. Didn't see me did you?" one of those texts said.

In addition to the reading of the texts, the husband and wife testified Wednesday on the second day of testimony. They are not being named because the Star-Telegram usually does not identify accusers in sexual assault cases.

Loven's attorney Mark Scott asked the wife if any of the phone numbers from which the texts were sent had been directly linked to his client. She said no.

But earlier, she testified that no one but Loven or her husband knew enough intimate details of their relationship to send such messages.

'A God thing'

The wife told the jury that she had searched for a Christian marriage counselor with values that she and her husband of 17 years shared. She believed she found the perfect counselor in Loven.

After two sessions with both of them in late 2008, including one with their son, Loven told the couple that they needed individual sessions.

She used the separate sessions to pit the wife against her husband, the wife testified. Even after Loven began having an affair with the husband, she told the wife that he was a "narcissist," complained that he did not come to sessions and did not follow her directions.

"There was nothing I did not tell her," the wife testified. "I thought that she genuinely cared about me and I told her how lucky I was to have found her. She told me it was a God thing. She would always give me a big hug before I left."

After the husband moved out of their house, he pleaded to be allowed to return home, the wife testified. He called dozens of times daily, claiming to be suicidal, she said.

The husband said he never wanted to go to counseling but did so to make his wife happy. After she filed for divorce in May 2009, Loven told him that she tried to talk his wife out of filing.

The wife, however, testified that Loven encouraged her to file, saying it would be a wake-up call for her husband and would encourage him to come to terms with his wife's complaints.

The husband testified that he was so depressed after the divorce papers were filed that he went only to work and then returned home.

"I'd play Russian roulette with my .357," the husband said. "A couple of times I put it to my head and clicked it."

Loven told him to get rid of the guns, so he gave them to a neighbor, he said. Loven also encouraged him to get out of the house more, but he testified that he never did -- until one night when she invited him to an Arlington nightclub for drinks.

At the club, Loven told him that she and her husband were separated. They danced, and Loven got so drunk that she had to be driven home by a friend, the husband testified.

The next morning, Loven called the husband and asked him to bring her some orange juice, bananas and Motrin, and he did. She invited the husband inside her house, and they talked.

"Sheila got up from the chair and straddled me and kissed me," the husband said. "It scared me. I hadn't kissed anyone except my wife for years and years."

They talked a bit and the husband left.

"At that time I wanted to be with my wife," he testified.

Affair revealed

In September 2009, the wife met Loven at a restaurant. She told Loven she believed her husband was seeing someone and that he did not call her much anymore, the wife testified. Then Loven and the wife speculated about who the new woman might be.

"She was quiet for a while and then she said, 'It's me, it's me,'" the wife testified.

"For a year, you told me what a mess-up he is, and you're a licensed professional counselor," the wife said she told Loven. "Why would you want him? She said everything that she said about him is what she loved about him. As she left, she hugged me and told me that she loved me."

The wife testified that she went to a bar and had a couple of drinks.

After that, the couple had long talks about what had happened to them and concluded that Loven had deliberately tried to sabotage their marriage to have an affair with the husband, according to the wife's testimony.

According to the state board's website, Loven surrendered her counselor's license on April 25, 2010.

Testimony is scheduled to resume this morning in state District Judge Ruben Gonzalez's court.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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