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Jury will try to reach verdict today in incest trial

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
Jurors failed to reach a verdict Wednesday in the trial of a man whose stepdaughter accused him of raping her when she was 8 years old.
The jury began deliberating shortly before 11 a.m. Just after 5 p.m., jurors sent a note to Presiding Superior Court Judge Richard L. Doughton saying they could not reach a unanimous verdict. Ten voted guilty; two not guilty.
Doughton sent the jurors home for the evening. Deliberations resume at 9:30 a.m. today.
The trial began Monday. The defendant is accused of raping the girl on several occasions when she was 8. She is now 13 and lives outside of Rowan County.
The Post does not identify victims of sex crimes and is not naming the defendant to protect the identity of the victim.
The victim testified Tuesday that her stepfather, who was 47 at the time, raped her more than three times, but she only recalls the first time in detail.
Doughton dismissed most of the charges against the man, saying the victim did not provide specific enough details of the alleged abuse to uphold them all.
In an interview when she was 11, the victim told local pediatrician Dr. Kathleen Russo she recalled the incidents occurring possibly three times.
She testified Tuesday the abuse occurred at least two times a week from the end of second to the beginning of third grade.
In the summer of 2007, the victim told a neighbor of the abuse. That neighbor testified she contacted the Rowan County Department of Social Services after telling the girl’s maternal grandmother and learning she did not contact authorities.
The neighbor told jurors she’d built a relationship with the girl and that the girl said her mother, who worked as a stripper at two local clubs, took the girl with her to truck stops where she exchanged sex for money while her daughter waited outside.
“Can you imagine what it must have been like for (the victim) to think she had nobody in the world she could go to?” said Assistant District Attorney Karen Biernacki, in her closing arguments.
Her mother was a prostitute and she had been passed around from place to place, Biernacki said.
“This little girl was living a trashy lifestyle. He knew she was vulnerable,” Biernacki said of the girl’s stepfather.
The prosecutor said the defendant’s attorney, Trippe McKeny, would have jurors believe it didn’t happen because the girl was lying and there were no eyewitnesses.
“She was an eyewitness,” Biernacki said. “She told you what happened, where it happened, when it happened and what it felt like.”
Biernacki said the defense counsel would suggest the child was making the accusations to get attention.
“Did she look like she was enjoying that sort of attention?” she asked.
Biernacki said the victim was afraid no one would believe her.
“She got on that stand and asked you to believe her. I’m asking you to not ignore her,” Biernacki said.
McKeny, said the victim is not credible. She told Rowan County Sheriff’s Detective Linda Porter she’d been raped two times a week. She later said it was maybe three times. McKeny asked jurors to think back to when the victim paused on the witness stand.
“Was that fear or was she creating a lie?” McKeny asked.
He said he gave the victim ample opportunities to clarify how many times she was raped.
McKeny said the reason the girl changed her testimony was because in the interview with the doctor, she had said it occurred possibly three times.
“She had to link up the stories,” McKeny said.
He asked jurors to use their common sense.
“There was no physical evidence,” he said.
Russo, the pediatrician, did not find any conclusive evidence that an assault occurred. The doctor said there were no blatant scars or tearing.
She said during testimony that healing could take place within weeks.

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