The alleged victim’s mother, along with counseling and law enforcement professionals, were among witnesses who testified Wednesday and Thursday in the ongoing trial of a Lawrence man accused of repeatedly molesting a preteen girl.
Attorneys particularly scrutinized those witnesses’ actions in the hours and days before the girl herself spoke to police.
The trial began Monday in Douglas County District Court for James M. Fletcher, 35, who faces five counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child under 14. He was charged with one count in September 2015, and four more counts in May 2016.
Fletcher allegedly molested the girl from December 2012, when the victim was 11, through January 2015, when she was 13, according to the charges.
The girl, now 16, told the jury Tuesday that numerous times when she stayed at Fletcher’s house over the course of more than two years, he fondled her breasts under her shirt at night.
The girl’s mother testified that on Feb. 9, 2015, Fletcher texted her that there was something he needed to tell her before coming to her house in Overland Park. She said he was distraught when he arrived and told her that he was sexually attracted to teenage girls and feared he might become attracted to the victim.
The mother recorded a conversation, played in court, during which Fletcher said those things. She said she feared something may have already happened.
“If he said anything that was incriminating, I wanted it on record,” she said.
She also said she had never seen Fletcher act so emotional or erratic and was worried about what he might do, so she left the room to retrieve her handgun — for which she has a concealed carry permit and training — and placed it in a holster on her back beneath her shirt. When asked repeatedly whether Fletcher ever saw it or knew she had it during the conversation, the mother repeatedly replied, “absolutely not.”
“I had never seen Jimmy act that way ever. He was very emotional; he was very erratic,” she said. “He said he was very guilty about something. He was crying constantly.”
Police were called and arrived at the house before the girl got home from school; however, she did not speak with an officer until the following day.
After her daughter arrived home from school, the mother also recorded a conversation with her, in which she asked the girl whether Fletcher had ever touched her inappropriately. The girl said she’d had dreams, only while staying at Fletcher’s house, that he had.
The girl later told a counselor who conducted the child forensic interview for police — and repeated in court — that although she initially described the events as dreams, they were real but it was difficult for her to say that out loud at first.
Fletcher’s defense attorneys, Sarah Swain and Cooper Overstreet, questioned the mother heavily about her gun — whether she ever pointed it at Fletcher, and whether he knew she had it — and her mental health — whether she’d been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
The mother answered no to all.
They also questioned the mother, counselors and law enforcement officers about leading questions and what kind of conversations the girl had and with whom before her statements to police.
Swain and Overstreet also pressed police about why they did not collect items the attorneys described as possible physical evidence, and why certain other family members of the involved parties weren’t formally interviewed by police or the girl’s teachers.
Prosecutors Mark Simpson and Alice Walker also questioned the witnesses and, in cross examination, asked the professionals in particular further questions about their training and why they took or did not take certain actions during the first days of the investigation.
The trial is scheduled to run until Aug. 18, if needed, in the courtroom of Judge Peggy Kittel. Testimony will continue on Friday.