Child victim testifies in sex assault case

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Morgan Thomas - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The trial of a 20-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl began Thursday with a detective saying the defendant threatened to kill the victim's family if she told anyone about the incident.

Lufkin Police Detective David Cross discussed the original reporting of the incident. In the late spring to early summer of  2008 the family of the victim invited the defendant, Marquis Stewart, to stay on their couch after being aware of his problems at home. According to Cross, at some point Stewart went into the victim's room and had sexual intercourse with her.

Cross said that the victim told Stewart she did not want to have sex with him and that Stewart threatened to kill members of the victim's family if she told anyone what he was doing.

Prosecuting Attorney Tony Latino then called Valerie Murphy, a sexual assault nurse examiner from Lufkin's Memorial Hospital. She performed a sexual assault assessment on the victim on July 2, 2008, when she and her mother visited the emergency room. She said it was too late after the alleged incident to collect forensic evidence, but did say the victim's hymen was unharmed. She also said this was not unusual in a sexual assault case. During cross examination, Stewart's attorney, John Tunnell, again asked how common sexual assault victims do not have any genital trauma and she continued to say it was common.

Tunnell did not offer an opening statement.

Latino called the mother of the alleged victim to the stand.  She described about how she and the victim's grandmother found $40 and asked her about where she got the money.  She gave an explanation which was not relayed in court and then she and the grandmother decided to take her to Planned Parenthood.  In cross examination, Tunnell asked if she made that decision before hearing about the alleged incident with Stewart and she said yes.  They were taking her to Planned Parenthood without knowledge of the incident. She did not go into specifics of why.

Latino then called the victim's grandmother to the stand and asked about the events.  She described taking the victim to Planned Parenthood, but after speaking with her decided to skip the exam and headed to the police department.  After speaking with officers, she took the victim to the hospital for an examination with the nurse.

District Judge Barry Bryan dismissed the jury to hear a motion to hear a motion to suppress by Tunnell, regarding a taped confession. Tunnell called a licensed psychologist to the stand to discuss the issues of the mental retardation of Stewart. He stated that his cognitive disabilities would have made him easily agreeable to police questioning.  The taped confession was played for the judge and witness.

Tunnell questioned whether Stewart really understood what he was being asked during police questioning.

In the confession Stewart told police that the victim came to him and jumped on him while he was sleeping on the couch in the living room.

Latino then called the victim, now 15, to the stand.  At the time of the alleged incident she was 13.  She described to the jury that Stewart would come into her room and she would tell him to get out.

"I would tell him to get out and he wouldn't get out," she said.

She said he pulled down both their pants and proceeded to have intercourse with her.

After the alleged incident she said he told he would harm her and her family if she told anyone.

She said that he came into her room 12 times and had sex with her every time except the last time.

"The last time he just felt on me."

When Latino asked if anyone could hear her, she said no, that everyone was asleep and she didn't scream, only cried.

The victim said when her relatives found out she had $40 they questioned her about where the money came from.  She told them her sister gave her $20 and she found the other $20.  Her grandmother didn't believe her and felt it was from a man.  The grandmother decided to take her to Planned Parenthood.

Before she left, her mom told her that if she had anything to tell her, now was her chance.  That was when she told her mom step-dad. When asked why she didn't tell anyone sooner she said Stewart was always around.

"I had the opportunity to tell her, but they was all in the kitchen," she said.

The victim said the abuse didn't stop until Stewart stopped living in their trailer to go stay with her aunt.

A confession was played in the courtroom for jury members.  The confession was taped during police questioning.  He claimed the alleged victim actually came to him with sexual advances.

The jury returns to the courtroom Friday morning when the trial continues.

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