Commonwealth Rests in Turner Rape Trial
October 30, 2012 at 6:00 AM by Jessica Shirey
CLEARFIELD – The commonwealth rested its case Monday afternoon after jurors heard testimony from a pair of criminal investigators and forensic scientists and a hospital physician during the trial for a 31-year-old Mahaffey man who has been accused of raping a 15-year-old girl back on Sept. 27, 2010.
James L. Turner Jr., 31, of Mahaffey is facing charges of rape; involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with person less than 16 years of age; statutory sexual assault; indecent assault with person less than 16 years of age; and corruption of minors.
The commonwealth formally dropped the charge against Turner for aggravated indecent assault with person less than 16 years of age prior to the start of the trial. Turner is currently free on $50,000 unsecured bail.
Trooper Randy Powell, a criminal investigator with the Punxsutawney-based state police, said he was assigned to an alleged rape Sept. 27, 2010. He proceeded to the girl’s grandma’s residence. He asked to speak with the girl in private.
He said the girl explained that she’d gone to the Turner residence the night before and stayed overnight, and she had been raped by the defendant. After speaking with her for about two hours, he requested her mother transport her to the Punxsutawney Hospital for a rape kit examination.
He arrived at the hospital later and waited for the rape kit to be submitted to him, which he later sent to the Erie Crime Lab for its initial analysis. He said he collected the DNA buccal swab from Turner when he arrived to the barracks Sept. 29.
Throughout the course of his investigation, he said he’d contacted the girl’s family, ex-boyfriend, hospital personnel, etc. He also received several reports from the DNA analysis performed at the Erie Crime Lab and the Greensburg Forensic DNA Lab. He said those reports were consistent with what the girl had reported to him.
Under cross-examination, defense attorney Robbie Taylor asked if the girl knew where her clothing items were after the alleged assault. Powell said the girl wasn’t certain where they were and couldn’t provide a description of them. As a result, he didn’t look for them at the residences of Turner, her grandma or her mother.
He also said he didn’t further investigate if the girl had placed calls or sent text messages Sept. 26-27, 2010. The girl had advised him she’d deleted her text messages from that timeframe. Early on he said he wasn’t even aware the girl had contacted two male friends. He later learned about her ex-boyfriend being contacted and their previous relationship and he, in turn, contacted him about as part of his investigation.
When the issue of “force” arose under cross-examination, Taylor pointed out that Powell’s report indicated the girl admitted she was wrong for having sexual intercourse with Turner, because he was married. However, Powell said the victim was crying and emotional during her interview.
Taylor pointed out another victim statement in which she told Powell she never said “no” and it was a “mutual decision” between her and Turner.
“That contradicts what she said today,” said Taylor. Powell said the girl’s emotions were consistent with that of other rape and sexual assault victims. He said he could understand why she wouldn’t know where her clothing items were after such a traumatic event.
When asked by District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., Powell said who the girl called first about the alleged rape wouldn’t have influenced the outcome as to who he charged in this case. He said he and the girl spoke at great length about consent and he had to define it for her.
“It took her a while to comprehend it,” he said. Ultimately, he said the girl related that she felt like she had to agree to the “mutual decision” to have sexual intercourse with Turner.
Later, Taylor asked Powell why he didn’t include this “significant” information in his report about explaining consent to the victim and her relating she felt forced into the “mutual decision.”
“This is a 15-year-old girl that we’re talking about,” said Powell. “She was describing a sexual assault.”
Trooper John B. Young of the Punxsutawney-based state police said he was a criminal investigator at the time of the alleged rape in September of 2010. He said Turner and his wife came to the barracks Sept. 28 during his shift when Powell wasn’t working. Turner wanted to provide his statement and submit to DNA testing.
However, Young wasn’t familiar with the case and contacted Powell at home. Powell asked him to collect the statement from Turner and request he return the next day when Powell would be available to perform a buccal swab of his DNA, which Young didn’t have.
On the night of the alleged rape, Turner told Young that the girl had arrived at his residence at which point she was advised she didn’t need to watch the children that night. She stayed, however; and they wrestled around. He told police the girl “kicked him in the nuts twice and grabbed his privates.” He then grabbed her and forced her down, saying “that’s enough.”
In other testimony:
Dr. James Shaffer, an emergency room physician at the Punxsutawney Hospital said he examined the girl at approximately 9:30 p.m. Sept. 27, 2010. He said the girl’s mother accompanied her for the rape kit examination.
Shaffer said the girl’s entire body was examined, which consisted of the girl’s head and public hair being combed; her fingernails being scraped; and vaginal and mouth swabs being collected. He described the girl as “upset but calm” and she’d told him about the alleged forced oral and sexual intercourse. He observed and photographed bruising on her head and neck area, upper chest and thigh. Shaffer told jurors that he used a Wood’s lamp, which utilizes ultraviolet light, to see if semen was present during his external vaginal examination. He said this revealed secretions outside the vaginal wall. He said there was a “good amount of a white, milky” mixture in the girl’s cervical area.
After his examination, he placed the swabs and samples into the rape kit bag with the girl’s clothing items and turned them over to state police.
Bradley McLaughlin, a forensic scientist at the Pennsylvania State Police Crime Lab in Erie, said he examined the evidence submitted in the rape kit by the Punxsutawney barracks. He received the kit’s contents Oct. 14, 2010, which included a vaginal and oral swab, finger scrapings, underwear and bra and the buccal swabs for the girl, Turner and the girl’s ex-boyfriend.
He said that seminal material was identified in the vaginal sample. He said that he didn’t identify any seminal material in the oral sample. Further, he said that seminal material was identified in the crotch area of the girl’s underwear.
He said the samples were prepared for DNA Analysis at the Pennsylvania State Police’s Forensic DNA Lab in Greensburg. He said the buccal swabs from the girl, her ex-boyfriend and Turner weren’t examined but were prepared and repackaged to be sent to Greensburg for analysis.
Allen Hoffman, a forensic scientist at the state police’s DNA Lab in Greensburg, said he received the samples from the Erie Crime Lab on Oct. 22, 2010. When he performed the analysis Nov. 9, 2011, he determined the DNA profile from the sperm fraction of the cutting from the crotch area of the underwear was consistent with a mixture. He said this DNA combination type is 130 quadrillion times more likely to have originated from the girl and Turner than from the girl and another person in the unrelated Caucasian population.
In addition, he said the DNA profile obtained from the sperm fraction of the vaginal sample was consistent with a mixture. He said the major component of the DNA mixture profile matches that from the known reference sample from the girl.
Hoffman said the DNA profile obtained from the known reference sample of the girl matches the DNA profile obtained from the non-sperm fraction of the vaginal swabs and the non-sperm fraction of the cutting from the crotch area of the girl’s underpants.
He said the DNA combination type from the vaginal swab was 24 trillion times more likely to have originated from the girl and Turner.
Hoffman said that the girl’s ex-boyfriend couldn’t be included as a contributor of the DNA profile obtained from the sperm and non-sperm fractions of the swabs from the vaginal sample or the sperm and non-sperm fractions of the cutting from the crotch area of the underwear.