Mistrial declared in abuse case

Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong declared a mistrial Tuesday in the case of a 64-year-old man who has been accused of having sexual intercourse with a 6-year-old child.

The case of Edward Slaubaugh, of Montrose, was slated to go to trial today; however, his two-day trial was rescheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 8-9 because Wilfong; Slaubaugh’s attorney, James Hawkins; and special Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora III were unable to impanel an impartial jury.

Of the 41 people who showed up for jury duty Tuesday in the Randolph County Courtroom, just 19 were left on the panel after the judge and attorneys asked potential jurors a slew of questions over the course of two and a half hours in an effort to root out bias. State code mandates that a jury be selected from a panel of 20 impartial individuals. The prosecution is allowed to strike the first two jurors and the defense may subsequently strike six; the remaining 12 serve as the jury.

“We’re down to 19 people, and state code requires the jury be selected from a panel of 20,” Wilfong said. “Because of the conflicts of interest, I’m declaring this a mistrial.”

LaMora asked that a larger panel of potential jurors be procured next time around, a request with which Wilfong concurred.

“Let’s make sure we have a 65- or 70-member panel next time,” Wilfong said.

A pretrial conference is set for 9 a.m. July 29, while jury selection will take place at 9 a.m. Aug. 6.

Hawkins, Slaubaugh’s attorney, said he wasn’t blindsided by the mistrial.

“I don’t think it was unexpected due to the sensitive nature of the case,” he said. “It was a combination of things. Some of the people had heard about it in The Inter-Mountain or other news media outlets, and other people had general feelings about the nature of the issue. It was a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”

“It’s a tough issue for a lot of people,” LaMora added.

In November 2012, Slaubaugh was indicted on one felony count of first-degree sexual assault, one felony count of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian and one felony count of first-degree sexual abuse.

According to the indictment, Slaubaugh allegedly had sexual intercourse with the victim and forced the victim to engage in a lewd sexual act on Sept. 17, 2011.

The child was 5 years old at the time the alleged incidents occurred.

Also on Tuesday, Wilfong denied two defense motions – one to prevent an Elkins Family Counseling Center counselor from testifying as an expert witness and a second to exclude the testimony of Slaubaugh’s ex-wife, Margaret Slaubaugh, in the case. Margaret Slaubaugh was married to Edward Slaubaugh at the time of the alleged incident, but the two have since divorced, the attorneys indicated.

During a special hearing at 1 p.m. July 12, Wilfong will rule on a 404-B motion submitted by the prosecution. The motion asks that the judge grant LaMora permission to introduce other crimes and “wrongdoings” as evidence during the course of the trial.

LaMora said he wanted to emphasize that despite his forthcoming arguments, all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

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