Lawrence man found guilty of raping a guest in his home; jury reached verdict in less than an hour

Erick W. Ogwangi

A Douglas County jury on Thursday found a Lawrence man guilty of raping a guest in his home in early 2017.

Jurors took less than an hour to conclude that Erick Ogwangi sexually assaulted his wife’s friend. He was taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read.

Ogwangi, 36, stood trial this week at the court’s Douglas County Fairgrounds location. The felony charge stems from a January 2017 incident, when a then-26-year-old woman accused him of raping her. The woman testified this week that she was staying at Ogwangi’s house to visit his wife, and while she was sleeping in their guest bedroom, Ogwangi overpowered her and raped her.

The Journal-World does not name alleged victims in sex crime cases.

Prior to handing the case over to the jury, Douglas County Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden on Thursday laid out an argument highlighting the woman’s account, saying her acrylic nail that fell off from a struggle was found in Ogwangi’s guest room, body fluid with Ogwangi’s DNA was found on her and a phone recording between the two appeared to show Ogwangi acknowledging that the incident occurred.

Meanwhile, Ogwangi’s attorney, Sarah Swain, told the jury that the woman’s recollection of the event was not consistent. She also argued that police did not investigate properly, failing to collect conversations between the woman and Ogwangi through text message and Facebook that would have shed a different light on the situation.

To make her point, Swain used a prop during her argument — a cardboard box with the word “evidence” written on it, which she flipped over in front of the jury to show nothing was in it.

Citing the woman’s testimony, Seiden said the woman was visiting Ogwangi and his wife after she had moved to Colorado. She planned to stay in their guest bedroom with one of their sons as a “slumber party,” while Ogwangi and his wife slept in their own room.

While at the house, the woman was giving another friend who was visiting the home a back rub. Seiden said the woman, who was sitting on the couch with Ogwangi and his wife, jokingly asked Ogwangi to give her a foot massage. While he was doing that, he tried to escalate things by moving up her leg, which made her uncomfortable.

Seiden said that later when everyone decided to go to bed, the woman began walking to the guest bedroom but noticed Ogwangi following her. She then quickly locked herself in the bathroom, hoping Ogwangi would go away. However, he tried to get into the bathroom and would not leave, Seiden said.

Ogwangi eventually got into the bathroom and began kissing her, but she did not reciprocate and told him “no,” Seiden said. Ogwangi left, and the woman went to the guest bedroom, where she slept with Ogwangi’s son, holding him to her. Seiden said the woman hoped holding the son would stop Ogwangi from doing anything further.

But she later woke up with Ogwangi assaulting her, Seiden said. She had noticed Ogwangi’s son had moved to a separate bed nearby. The woman tried to fight off Ogwangi but he raped her, Seiden said.

After the incident, the woman left the home and went to the hospital for a sexual assault evaluation. Later she reported the incident to the police.

During his argument, Seiden showed the jury a recording of the woman calling Ogwangi from the police station after the incident. In that recording, the woman could be heard telling Ogwangi she “didn’t understand why he would do that.” Ogwangi could then be heard saying he didn’t know either.

“I don’t know what came over me,” Ogwangi could be heard saying over the phone. “I don’t know how I could do that to somebody I care about.”

Seiden also noted that DNA evidence taken from the evaluation showed seminal fluid found on the woman belonging to Ogwangi.

He also cited a voicemail recording, where Ogwangi called the woman and asked her about the rape accusation. Seiden noted the voicemail came hours after the call from the police station, and just after the police had searched his home with a warrant for the alleged crime. He argued Ogwangi knew the voicemail would be used as evidence and tried to change his recollection of the event.

During the search of Ogwangi’s home, police noticed the sheets from the guest bedroom bed had been washed. Additionally, they found an acrylic nail that belonged to the woman in the guest bedroom, suggesting it had fallen off during a struggle.

But Swain argued that the evidence was insufficient. She said when police spoke to the woman about the incident, they took her word and did not check to see whether she had been messaging Ogwangi prior to the incident. She said the police should have done that after Ogwangi provided a different account of the incident.

She noted police could have seized her phone to review those messages, but they did not do so.

She also pointed to the sexual assault evaluation, which showed in one part that there were no marks on the woman after the incident.

Seiden countered that as a defense attorney in the case, Swain also had subpoena power to obtain the messages, which were never shown to the jury. He argued that if the messages were relevant, she could have gotten them as well. He also noted the police reviewed the woman’s phone after she gave it to them willingly, because “she had nothing to hide.”

Additionally, he said the sexual assault examination documents noted in a different area that abrasions were found near the woman’s vagina.

And finally, Seiden argued that the important part of the woman’s account of the incident had never changed. Over the four years since the incident occurred, the woman’s account had remained the same: She was overcome by Ogwangi and she did not consent to sex.

A sentencing date for Ogwangi has not yet been determined.

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