Craig man found guilty of incest

Father used 'honor' to control his daughter

Editor's note: What follows is the first part of a series on incest that will run throughout this week. It is the policy of the Craig Daily Press not to print the names of the accused or victims in the cases of sexual assault.

A Moffat County jury convicted a Craig man Friday of sexually assaulting his daughter.

Because child sex offenders are refused bond, the convict was promptly arrested by a Moffat County Sheriff's deputy and led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

In the final, shocking moments of an already emotional trial, the man reproached his daughter as he walked past her on his way to jail.

"My blood is on your hands now," he said.

His daughter collapsed. Between sobs, she asked those around her, "Did you hear what he said to me?"

The prosecutor, a deputy district attorney from Mesa County, said he wasn't surprised.

"He spent six years using shame to control her," Bryan Garrett said. "He's not going to stop trying now."

The perpetrator's conviction followed five days of emotional proceedings that called two of his daughters from their new home in California to testify against him in Craig.

Also, a caseworker from Moffat County Social Services, a detective with the Craig Police Department, two foster parents and an expert who counsels child abuse victims, took the stand to bolster the victim's testimony and provide context for the prosecution's case.

Before the verdict was read, Judge Richard Doucette announced he was prepared to hold in contempt anyone responsible for an outburst. Still, the courtroom buzzed with the palpable sense of apprehension.

The defendant rose to face the jury. He took a long look at his daughters. The younger daughter returned his gaze as she sat in the front row next to her 16-year-old sister, whose abuse was the crux of the case.

The judge read the jury's verdict in a flat tone void of emotion.

"We the jury find the defendant guilt of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust."

The defendant remained motionless. Sheryl Uhlmann, a public defender representing the Craig man, put her arm around him and whispered to him.

The judge continued, "We the jury find the defendant guilty of aggravated incest."

Additionally, the jury found the defendant committed the sexual assault as part of a pattern of abuse. The finding was not an added count, but rather a "sentence enhancer," as the prosecutor explained.

Garrett said sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust normally carries a penalty of four years to life with the option of community-based corrections or probation. By adding the "pattern of abuse" charge, Garrett was able to guarantee a harsher sentence.

The convict now faces a mandatory eight years to life in a Department of Corrections prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7.

"If he gets out on parole, he will have to be on parole for at least 20 years or longer," Garrett said. "He will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life -- at least annually, and every time he moves."

Garrett explained the man was convicted of a single sex crime, one that occurred in Craig. The victim testified about the details of four specific incidents of sexual abuse. She said the abuse occurred several times a week at certain times in her life, beginning around age eight or nine.

The majority of the abuse took place in California. The final incident happened in Craig in 2000.

Nearly two years later, she divulged the abuse to a family friend, and then to Detective Storm Fallon of the Craig Police Department.

Initial interviews between Fallon and the victim uncovered details of sexual abuse throughout the girl's life in California. But when asked about any incidents in Craig, the girl said nothing happened. Subsequent interviews between Fallon and the victim showed that something did happen.

The victim testified that one time, while living in Craig, her father groped her and unsuccessfully propositioned her for sex. She said she confronted her father, warning him she would kill him if he ever tried again.

The defense relied heavily on this inconsistency, claiming the victim was a "system savvy" teenager hoping to influence her foster home placement by inventing a story about her father.

Cheryl Young, an expert witness who counsels victims of sex crimes, testified that children exposed to numerous incidents of sexual abuse may begin to develop a skewed view of reality. This skewed vision shows lesser incidents, such as fondling, seem almost insignificant compared to other, unspeakable acts they may have been required to perform, Young said.

Garrett argued this effect was responsible for the victim's non-disclosure of the Craig incident.

"It was nothing," the victim testified. "I was focussed on the stuff that happened in California."

The fondling incident in Craig was a criminal act, though the child may not have perceived it to be so, the prosecution argued.

Young, who has seen hundreds of cases of sexual abuse said, "Victim's standards do not meet our standards. Kids may classify a horrific experience as not that bad."

The defense's theory throughout the trial was that the victim had a "motive to fabricate" her story, claiming the victim wanted to go to California to live with her grandparents and hoped allegations against her father would solidify the placement.

Matt Harris, a Moffat County Social Services caseworker, went "beyond the call of duty" to help the prosecution establish a timeline to counter the fabrication claim, Garrett said. Harris reviewed "hundreds of pages of records" to find helpful details, such as the fact that the victim's first disclosure of the abuse occurred after the caseworker had sent a letter to officials in California proposing the victim and her

sisters be placed there with the grandparents.

"That's what we were hoping to establish with the jury," Garrett said.

The guilty verdict and subsequent arrest of the victim's father was not enough to protect her from the final blow, the last abusive remark he uttered on his way to jail.

Garrett said throughout the trial that the father had controlled his daughter through his insistence upon "honor" in the family, often invoking the concept during the abuse, saying that a refusal to submit to him would dishonor him, and reminding the victim that disclosure would also dishonor him.

"I think he believed that if he took this to trial his daughters would never get on the stand to testify against him," Garrett said.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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