Friday, October 24, 2014

Dream, reality debated at child sex trial

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 2/27/2013

[Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details of a sexual nature that might be offensive to some readers. Herald editors, however, think the details are necessary to convey the seriousness of the allegations. The Herald does not publish the names of reported victims.]

[Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details of a sexual nature that might be offensive to some readers. Herald editors, however, think the details are necessary to convey the seriousness of the allegations. The Herald does not publish the names of reported victims.]

Was that a dream?

It was the first question a young Ottawa mother asked when her 4-year-old daughter awakened before daybreak on the morning of May 25, 2011, and said: “He won’t quit licking my front.”

“I was pulling her clothes out of her dresser, and that’s what she said,” the mother testified in Franklin County District Court Tuesday morning on day two of the Eric Scrutchfield jury trial. “I asked, ‘Who wouldn’t stop licking you?’ And she said, ‘Mr. Eric.’”

Scrutchfield, 28, a former Franklin County employee, faces three felony counts on suspicion of sexual abuse of the then-4-year-old girl, stemming from an incident alleged to have occurred in spring 2011 at the Yvonne Scrutchfield Day Care Home, 607 N. Cedar St., a business run by Scrutchfield’s wife. It was closed in late May 2011 by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment because of the allegations.

The Douglas County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges against Scrutchfield in June 2011 and is handling the case because of Scrutchfield’s previous employment with Franklin County.

Scrutchfield worked for the county as a computer support specialist before his arrest. He has been free on bond, awaiting the trial, which is being presided over by District Judge Eric W. Godderz.

Under questioning by prosecutor Catherine Skinner, the young girl, now 6, took the stand Tuesday morning and told the jury of six men and six women that “Mr. Eric” was the one who wouldn’t stop licking her.

The mother, during her testimony, explained that Mr. Eric was what the children at the day care called Eric Scrutchfield. The mother also said her daughter used the term “front” to describe her vaginal area.

When asked by Skinner if the person known as Mr. Eric was in the courtroom Tuesday morning, she identified the defendant Eric Scrutchfield.

The child testified that the assault took place during nap time at the day care. She said the other kids were asleep, and that “I was the only one Mr. Eric wanted to [touch].”

John A. Boyd, Scrutchfield’s defense attorney, tried to discredit the allegation by pointing out that the girl had a history of nightmares and behavioral issues and had started seeing a counselor at the Elizabeth Layton Center for Hope and Guidance before she reported the incident to her mother. He said the girl had told investigators and counselors that “Mr. Eric said he wanted to touch me every day.”

But on the stand, the girl said the assault only occurred once.

Under cross-examination by Boyd, the mother said the child went back and forth between saying the sexual assault was a dream and it was real before going to the day care that morning. She also said her daughter had experienced difficulty at times in distinguishing between dreams and reality.

The mother fought back tears as she told the jury that she was “an idiot” for letting her daughter and toddler son go to the day care on the day her daughter told her about the alleged assault. But she said because her daughter’s allegations were of such a serious nature, she wanted to find out more before accusing someone of sexually assaulting her daughter. The mother’s then live-in boyfriend testified that he picked up the children from day care that afternoon and that the daughter told him she didn’t like Mr. Eric.

“When I asked her why didn’t she like Mr. Eric, she said ‘He won’t quit licking me,’” the boyfriend testified. The boyfriend was living with the girl’s mother at the time and was the father of the girl’s toddler half-brother.

The mother testified she called her own mother the evening her daughter told her about the incident to ask her advice. After talking with her mother, the woman testified she took the children to see their grandmother, an Edgerton resident, the next morning. The woman testified her daughter told the same story to her mom.

The grandmother said the girl could not have made up that story because she was too young to have knowledge of oral sex, the mother testified.

On the afternoon of May 26, 2011, the two women and the girl went to the Ottawa Police Department, where detectives interviewed the girl and took the two women’s statements, the mother testified.

In laying out a road map for the prosecution’s case, Jim McCabria, assistant Douglas County attorney, said the state would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the allegations did not stem from a dream or a child’s vivid imagination, but that a sexual assault in fact occurred. He said an expert witness from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab ran tests on two pairs of the child’s underwear, and that Scrutchfield’s DNA was linked to one pair.

Defense attorney Boyd countered that his expert lab witness also ran tests on the undergarments and found that several people’s DNA were contained on the samples.

Boyd continued to challenge the credibility of the story. Under his questioning, the mother relayed an incident that had occurred two years before in which the child had walked in on her 17-year-old uncle watching a pornographic movie at his parents’ house. Boyd asked the mother if it was possible the child saw people engaged in oral sex on the movie, and if it also was possible she had seen her uncle masturbating during the incident.

The mother testified it was possible her daughter had witnessed something on the movie. She said she didn’t know if the uncle was masturbating or not.

The mother said she became concerned when her daughter walked past her while she was changing her young son’s diaper and said, “I don’t want to kiss that,” referring to her younger brother’s penis.

After checking with the 17-year-old uncle’s parents, the mother testified she learned about the pornographic movie incident. The young uncle said he told the girl to leave the room, but wasn’t sure what she saw, the mother testified, adding that she did not ask the uncle if he was masturbating at the time.

But because the young girl referred to not wanting to kiss her brother’s penis, Boyd asked the mother if in fact that demonstrated the young girl did have carnal knowledge two years prior to attending the Scrutchfield day care, from early March 2011 to late May 2011.

“That’s possible,” the mother said. “Yes.”

The mother, under Boyd’s questioning, said her daughter was prone to acting out things she had seen in movies. “But all young children do that,” the woman said.

During his testimony, the mother’s ex-boyfriend said he was confident the girl’s story was not based on a dream.

“She had a confused and hurt look on her face,” he said. “She’s never had that look before when she’s woke up after a nightmare.”

Boyd pointed out that the girl’s mother had contacted a lawyer about a possible civil suit seeking damages against the Scrutchfields, and that the mother had failed to relay the incident about the pornographic movie to detectives with the Ottawa Police Department when she reported the alleged sexual assault. He also said that detectives never asked the girl if she had dreamt the incident.

The mother told the jury that the movie incident had happened months before, and that she was just focused on the sexual assault allegation when she talked with detectives.

The girl’s grandmother was set to take the stand at 9 a.m. Thursday. The trial is expected to last into next week.

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