Published Monday, Feb. 23, 2009 | 2:49 p.m.
Updated Monday, Feb. 23, 2009 | 9:28 p.m.
A girl who says accused child rapist Chester A. Stiles molested her when she was 6 years old told her story in court Monday.
The girl, now 11 and in the fifth grade, has since moved from Las Vegas to Washington state. She told the court how a man she called Chetter “touched her inappropriately.”
“He came upstairs and then he kissed me,” she said. “I was in my bed ... He had his tongue in my mouth.”
The girl, whose blond curls framed her pale face and rosy cheeks as she sat on the witness stand, responded to questions meekly, her voice soft. Although she said she didn’t remember all the details of her alleged assault five years ago, she went on to say that the man, who had spent time reading her stories in her bedroom, touched her between her legs.
The girl and her mother testified Monday after opening arguments. In cross-examination, the defense challenged the girl’s recollection of events.
Public defender Amy Coffee asked, “Is it safe to say that you remember some things, but you don’t remember everything? … Some of these details (the prosecution asked about) were somewhat confusing for you?” The girl answered “yes” to both questions.
Court proceedings got underway after Judge Jennifer P. Togliatti dismissed juror No. 3, which leaves 12 jurors and two alternates to hear the case. The juror was dismissed after he told the judge about an issue at home. Attorneys had been briefed on the man’s concerns, although the details weren't discussed in open court.
At about 11:30 a.m. Monday, the 22 charges against Stiles were read aloud. Some jurors looked uncomfortable while others appeared stoic as the charges – many of which contain explicit language – were recited by a court clerk. Stiles, flanked by public defenders Coffee and Stacey Roundtree, rarely looked up as the charges were read.
The first three of the 22 charges pertain to the girl who testified Monday, one of two alleged victims of Stiles. The first count is a charge of sexual assault of a minor under 14 years of age; counts two and three are charges of lewdness with a child under the age of 14. Twenty-one of the 22 charges can carry a life sentence.
In her opening argument to the jury, Deputy District Attorney Mary Kay Holthus outlined some of the evidence the prosecution plans to present. She said telephone calls Stiles has made during his incarceration and letters he wrote and left in a Frappuccino bottle police found in the desert will be presented to the jury.
Holthus also addressed a videotape that allegedly shows Stiles assaulting a 2-year-old girl — a tape jurors will be asked to watch later this week.
“Fortunately and unfortunately, unlike most juries … you will have the opportunity to watch one of these crimes actually being committed,” Holthus said.
She also said that Darren Tuck, the 26-year-old Pahrump man who turned over to police the videotape of the alleged assault, likely will take the stand. Tuck, who has had previous run-ins with the law, was convicted of obstruction of a public officer for keeping the tape for five months before turning it over to authorities.
Holthus referred to letters and phone calls in which Stiles calls himself a “diddler” and says that, since he was 15 years old, he has had an attraction to prepubescent girls because of their “purity of virtue.”
In a call made from a jailhouse telephone, Holthus said, Stiles is recorded as saying, “I can’t deny what’s on the video. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the fact.”
Holthus quoted from a letter in which Stiles wrote he was sexually abused as a child and blames incidents that happened to him as a young boy as reasons for his “proclivity.” He wrote, “The abuse made my conscience smaller than what it should have been.”
Holthus also read excerpts from a letter Stiles penned to his teenage son.
“So much abuse made me numb to it,” he wrote. “Be ashamed of me, be embarrassed of me, but don’t carry the blame or the family curse … I’m a monster, but monsters are made, not born.”
Opening arguments did not sit well with Stiles’ attorneys. After the alleged victim finished her testimony, Coffee moved for a mistrial, saying the prosecution’s use of the word “molester” in opening arguments was inflammatory. The defense also objected to the jury seeing Stiles’ mug shot, calling it “sensational” in nature. Togliatti denied the motion.
After the prosecution’s opening arguments, Coffee challenged the statements the now-11-year-old girl had earlier made to police. She pointed out inconsistencies in statements the girl had made. She also said the FBI noted the tape found in the desert had been “highly edited.”
“What you won’t see in this trial is an original video,” she said. “You won’t see camera equipment that any alleged video was made on. You won’t see any editing equipment. You won’t see equipment used to make this video or this other alleged version.”
She also said there is no fingerprint or DNA evidence linking Stiles to the alleged assault or creation of the tape.
“We are asking you to keep an open mind until you have seen and heard all of the evidence in this case,” she said to the jury. “When you go back to deliberate, you will see that the state has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Stiles is guilty of any of the 22 charges.”
According to court documents, a friend of the girl’s mother who also was the on-again, off-again girlfriend of Stiles had asked to stay at the family’s home after losing her job. Tina Allen and the mother of the girl both were employed at a Las Vegas limousine company.
Stiles came to the home to visit Allen and ended up spending the night. The assault allegedly occurred during his stay in December 2003.
Allen is expected to testify later this week.
The girl’s mother took the stand to give her account of what had happened that night. She said the next day her daughter “whispered in my ear that ‘Chester put his tongue in my mouth.’ I was in shock.
“I asked her how and she stuck her tongue out of her mouth and wiggled it around.”
She also testified Monday that Stiles told her daughter, “this is what boyfriends and girlfriends do, that’s why your daddy doesn’t do this.” She said Stiles had told her daughter not to tell her mother and father about what had happened because if she did, they wouldn’t be able to see each other anymore.
The girl’s mother will take the stand again Tuesday for cross-examination.