Friday, October 31, 2014

Child sex trial focuses on victim video, detective

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Staff Writer | 2/28/2013

Jurors on Thursday afternoon watched an 80-minute DVD recording of an interview in which a then-4-year-old girl described being sexually assaulted by a man at an Ottawa day care, sometime between early March and late May 2011.

The girl, using drawings and anatomically correct dolls to describe what happened, told detectives that “Mr. Eric” had committed the assault. Detectives established the person the girl was accusing of the assault was Eric Scrutchfield.

The third day of Scrutchfield’s trial included testimony from Steve Burkhart, the Ottawa Police Department detective who was the primary investigator in the case, as well as testimony from the girl’s grandmother and the child’s therapist from the Elizabeth Layton Center for Hope and Guidance.

Scrutchfield, a former Franklin County employee, faces three felony counts on suspicion of sexual abuse of the girl, stemming from an incident that is alleged to have occurred 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, which surfaced on May 26, 2011, when the girl’s mother and grandmother accompanied her to the Ottawa Police Department.

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

During his cross-examination of Det. Burkhart, John A. Boyd, Scrutchfield’s defense attorney, asked Burkhart if he knew before questioning the reported victim that the mother had asked the girl repeatedly if the abuse had been a dream or real, even after the girl initially had said several times it had been a dream.

“No, I wasn’t aware of that,” Burkhart answered.

Burkhart said investigators are trained not to ask young children the same question repeatedly because that would imply to the child that they were not telling the truth.

Boyd then asked Burkhart if he was aware before he interviewed the alleged victim that the girl had previously been exposed to oral sex in a pornographic movie when she walked in on her uncle.

“Did you realize she had carnal knowledge before your interview?” Boyd asked.

“No,” Burkhart said.

Boyd asked the detective if he made any attempt to question the other children at the day care to see if there had been any potential eyewitnesses to the alleged event.

Burkhart said he had not attempted to interview all the children who might or might not have been present that day because he didn’t know the exact date the alleged assault took place. Boyd asked Burkhart why, if he knew about the alleged child rape on May 26, he didn’t go to the scene until May 31. The detective cited the unknown date of the reported abuse as the reason why he did not make an attempt to seal off the crime scene.

“On a scale of one to 10, if a parking ticket is a one and a mass murder is a 10, wouldn’t a child rape fall at about a 9 or 10 on that scale?” Boyd asked.

“Yes,” Burkhart said.

“Yet, you made no attempt to interview the other children to see if there may have been eyewitnesses, you made no attempt to process the alleged crime scene in a meaningful way,” Boyd said, referring to Burkhart’s testimony that he took several photographs of the interior of the day care during a 30-minute period.

Boyd asked if the detective had made an attempt to diagram the room to see if it would have been possible to commit such an assault in a bedroom with potentially as many as five children sleeping in the room at the same time.

Burkhart responded that all the cots and other furniture in the room were mobile, and he had no way of knowing where the furniture was located when the reported assault occurred, and since Scrutchfield had told police during his four-hour interview that he had come in contact with the girl during nap time, it was reasonable to assume that an assault was possible.

Boyd shot back that Scrutchfield repeatedly denied he sexually assaulted the girl during that same police interview.

Burkhart responded that he wasn’t sure how many times Scrutchfield denied committing the assault because he was not present during the entire interrogation.

With regard to the pornographic movie the girl possibly had scene, Jim McCabria, assistant Douglas County attorney, asked Burkhart if it would have made a difference if the girl would have watched the movie for two seconds or two minutes, and if she was 2 years old or 4 years old.

“Yes, it would,” Burkhart said.

For more coverage of the trial, see the Herald’s Weekender edition.

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