Hubbard Road man on trial in rapes of 2 teenage girls

By Peter H. Milliken

YOUNGSTOWN — Christopher DeWitt abused his position of trust by raping two teenage girls as they slept in his residence, a prosecutor said.

DeWitt’s defense lawyer, however, told jurors they’d hear enough conflicting testimony about what did or did not occur and the dates the reputed crimes occurred to create reasonable doubt about the prosecution’s claims.

The trial of DeWitt, 38, of Hubbard Road, who was indicted on four counts of rape, continued Monday before a six-man, six-woman jury. Presiding over the trial is Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

The charges pertain to “the trust that this defendant violated when he raped two young high school girls while they were asleep and staying the night at his house,” Gabriel Wildman, assistant county prosecutor, said in his opening statement.

Two of the rape counts in the indictment pertain to the assault on a 16-year-old girl July 19, 2008, and the other two counts pertain to the assault on a 17-year-old girl sometime between July 1 and 31, 2008.

Wildman said the 17-year-old girl is a relative of DeWitt, who awakened at 4:30 a.m., after sleeping on the living room couch and found DeWitt raping her.

After staying up until 6 a.m., the 16-year-old woke up at 9:30 a.m. to find DeWitt lying in bed with her and raping her, the prosecutor said, telling the jurors he was confident they’d find DeWitt guilty of all counts.

The girls’ mothers will testify concerning the emotional toll the rapes took on the girls and how the crimes came to be reported, Wildman said, adding that law enforcement officers will testify concerning the investigation.

DeWitt’s Cleveland lawyer, Daniel Thiel, told the jurors they’ll hear from two witnesses who were in the house who will say the assaults never happened.

“You’ll hear enough different stories, different dates and different things that, in your mind, somebody should be able to know, or it doesn’t make any sense to you. And it will give you the ability to raise a reasonable doubt,” Thiel told the jury.

The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a criminal conviction. Each rape count carries a three-to 10-year prison term upon conviction.

In a written notice last week, Thiel told Wildman and Natasha K. Frenchko, the other assistant county prosecutor assigned to the case, that the defense proposes to offer alibi testimony at the trial. De- Witt maintains he was with his son at a Cleveland hospital on the entire weekend that included July 19, 2008, the notice says.

Testimony resumes this morning.