ELKINS - The mother of the alleged victim in a sexual assault trial testified Wednesday that she had been made aware of her 10-year-old daughter's allegations of abuse several times but did not report the situation to authorities.
The trial of Derek Jason Shifflett, 31, of Elkins, began Wednesday with Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker telling the jury that, because her mother would not speak with authorities, the alleged victim had to turn to a friend her own age for help.
"Who does a 10-year-old girl turn to when she is being abused?" Parker said during his opening statement in Randolph County Circuit Court. "The answer in this case is another 10-year-old girl. This is a case of a cry for help... that went on for far, far too long."
Parker said the friend then told her own grandfather, who reported the matter to law enforcement. The investigating officer, Deputy A.G. VanScoy of the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, along with Allyson Scott of Child Protective Services, was able to set up an interview with the alleged victim, Parker said.
"Scott will testify that the detail with which this 10-year-old girl provided her about specific sexual acts led her to proceed with the case and further the investigation," Parker said. "VanScoy will tell you the same thing - things that a 10-year-old should not know."
"Most importantly you are going to hear from (the alleged victim) herself," Parker said. "She is going to come to this courtroom, sit right there, in front of you 12 jury members, the judge, all the people up here, all these attorneys and all these people in the audience. She's going to tell you what (Shifflett) did to her. She's going to tell you what he made her do."
Shifflett's defense counsel, Chris Cooper, along with co-counsels John Cooper and Jeremy Cooper, elected Wednesday to reserve the right to present the defense's opening statements at the conclusion of the prosecution's case.
The prosecution's first witness was the 10-year-old friend of the alleged victim. Once she was sworn in, Parker asked the girl if she understood the difference between telling the truth and lying. She said that she did. Parker asked the girl to talk about how she found out about the alleged victim's allegations. She said she had noticed her friend had her head down at recess and wasn't talking to anyone. The girl said she asked what was wrong, and the alleged victim pulled her aside and told her about what Shifflett was allegedly making her do. The friend said she then told her own family about the incident.
Chris Cooper, in his cross-examination, asked the friend if she stayed the night regularly with the alleged victim. She said that she would stay sometimes on the weekends.
"Let me ask you this," Chris Cooper said in his cross examination. "Do you ever discuss with her speaking to ghosts?"
"Yes," said the girl.
"Do you have the ability to talk to spirits and ghosts?" Chris Cooper asked.
"Yes," the girl said.
"Does (the alleged victim) have the same ability?" Cooper asked.
"I'm not really sure," the girl replied.
Parker called VanScoy to the witness stand, who talked about receiving the call from the grandfather on Sept, 25, 2012. VanScoy testified that the matter was reported to the state Department of Health and Human Resources and at that time Scott contacted him to set up an interview with the alleged victim at school to talk about the allegations of abuse.
VanScoy said the alleged victim mentioned in the interview that she had attempted to tell her mother about the abuse in a note.
"She said that she had written a note to her mother one time telling her mother about what (Shifflett) was doing," VanScoy testified. "She said that her mother told her that this had happened to her (the mother) in the past when she was a child and that she was going to try and stop it from happening to (the alleged victim). She also said that she had heard her mother speak to (Shifflett) about the actions. And she continued to say that she believes that her mother has witnessed actions of (Shifflett)."
"So she indicated to you that she believed that her mother had actually seen these acts being perpetrated?" Parker asked.
"Yes," VanScoy replied.
VanScoy said he issued a search warrant to look for the note at the house on the same day that the interview was conducted, but was unable to locate it because he "believed it may have been disposed of."
The prosecution also called Scott, who testified about her attempts to set up an interview at the Children's Advocacy Center.
"The CAC was unable to set up an interview with the child because the parents were uncooperative in setting up the interview with the Center," Scott said Wednesday. "That's when VanScoy and I made the decision that due to the severity of the allegations that we would go to her school and conduct an interview with her there."
"Is parental permission required to have an interview at the CAC?" asked Assistant Prosecutor Christina Harper.
"Yes, ma'am." Scott said.
"Is parental permission required to conduct an interview with a child at her school?" Harper asked.
"No, ma'am," Scott said.
During the interview, Scott said the alleged victim wrote a note to Scott detailing an incident where Shifflett allegedly forced her to have anal sex.
Scott said after the interview was conducted the girl was not returned to the custody of her parents.
"We determined that there was no one in her home to keep her safe," Scott said. "I felt like I had to step in. So I sought emergency custody of (the alleged victim)."
Scott said the alleged victim was given a medical examination which showed no evidence of sexual intercourse or oral sex. During the examination, the girl denied that there had been anal sex, Scott said.
The criminal investigation was focused on the alleged victim's allegations of forced oral sex, Parker said.
The final testimony of the day was given by the alleged victim's mother. The Inter-Mountain is not publishing the mother's name in order to avoid identifying the alleged victim.
The mother told the court that she was interviewed by Scott and Cpl. A.S. Loudin at the West Virginia State Police barracks in Elkins.
"During that interview, you told Allyson Scott that (the alleged victim) had never disclosed to you any allegations of sexual assault by Derek Shifflett, is that correct?" Parker asked.
"Yes," the mother of the alleged victim said.
"And is that a true statement?" Parker asked.
"No, it is not," she said.
Parker asked the mother how she "first become aware that Shifflett was sexually assaulting your daughter."
"When she gave me a little note," the mother answered.
"When did you receive that note?" asked Parker.
"Probably around spring time (in) 2012," she said.
"What did you do when you received that note?" Parker asked.
"I discussed it with Derek," she replied.
She told Parker that Shifflett denied the allegations and that she did not report the incident to authorities. She said there was another instance several weeks later when it was brought to her attention again. She said she told her daughter that the three of them needed to have a discussion about the abuse.
"We were standing in the kitchen and (the alleged victim) was standing behind me, cowering behind my leg," she told Parker. "And Derek kind of came out and said 'I'm sorry... And I'll never do it again.'"
The mother said that though she had not observed the alleged victim engaged in sexually abusive scenarios with Shifflett, she found them together once at night.
"I was asleep on the couch and I walked by (the alleged victim's) bedroom and her nightlight was off, which was very strange," the mother told the court. "She always had her lava lamp and her radio on. Everything was pitch black, and there was no music on. And Derek was standing over her bed and not wearing anything but a t-shirt, naked from the waist down. (The alleged victim) was awake... She was crying. She was very upset. Sobbing."
The mother said that after the girl spoke with authorities, when the DHHR objected to her having custody of her children, she decided to "step up and start supporting" her daughter.
Chris Cooper, in his cross-examination, asked the mother if she had lied to law enforcement in the past. She said she had.
Parker said he had no more witnesses prepared for the day. The jury was dismissed and court adjourned for the day.
Shifflett was indicted on 50 counts of first-degree sexual assault, a felony; 50 counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, a felony; and 50 counts of incest, a felony.
The indictment alleges that Shifflett had sexual intercourse with a family member under the age of 12 on numerous occasions between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012.
On Jan. 2, Parker moved to dismiss 66 of the 150 counts against Shifflett, "based on information that (the state) had obtained in preparation for the case."
The trial will continue at the Randolph County Courthouse at 9 a.m. today.
Contact Chad Clem by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.