A Boardman man faces five counts of first-degree sexual abuse following a grand jury indictment.

Earl Lee Sanders, 26, of 313 Baja Court, Boardman, pleaded not guilty Friday to the charges. Court records show the lone victim was a female relative.

A grand jury indicted Sanders Aug. 3, which led the Morrow County Sheriff’s Office to arrest him Thursday and book him into the Umatilla County Jail, Pendleton.

Shurlee Sanders, Earl Sander’s mother, said Monday her son lives with her in Boardman. She said he is mentally disabled, prone to depression and suffers from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. She said the 5-year-old victim and her son watched cartoons together once and he never touched the girl. Shurlee Sanders blamed another family member for leading the child to make up the accusations.

Shurlee Sanders also said the $500,000 bail Circuit Court Judge Dan Hill set at Friday’s arraignment was unfair.

“He’s not a flight risk; he doesn’t drive,” she said.

The indictment accuses Earl Sanders of touching the girl’s breasts twice, touching her genitals twice and on kissing her lips once between Feb. 1 and March 20. Morrow County District Attorney Justin Nelson said Sanders made admissions about some of the molestation to investigators.

Someone can have a lower intelligence, Nelson said, and still pose a threat to society.

Earl Sanders has a pre-trial hearing Thursday, Aug. 23; his trial has been set for Oct. 4.

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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