MADISON – “Not guilty.”
That was the decision of a Boone County jury on both counts of a case involving alleged sexual abuse by a 52-year-old man and a 9-year-old female victim.
Lawrence W. Doss, age 55 now, of Nellis, was on trial after being indicted by a Boone County grand jury on one count of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust.
The alleged incident happened on May 8, 2010, when the little girl came to Doss’s home to play with his daughter.
According to testimony and court documents, Doss’s wife and daughter were not home at the time the alleged victim showed up at his home, but he said they would be there “any minute” and she was welcome to wait for them to return home.
Doss said the girl had been to his home many times to play with his daughter, so he didn’t see any problem with her waiting inside, according to statements given to police.
Doss was watching a western show on television and the 9-year-old grabbed the remote control to change the channel, according to testimony in the trial.
Doss and the alleged victim agreed that they began to “horse play” over the remote control and the child began to fall off the couch, testimony revealed.
Accounts of what happened next is where the two sides told different versions of events.
According to testimony from the alleged victim’s grandmother, the girl came home and at some point was told she needed to take a bath.
The grandmother said her pants were dirty with stains, so she dropped them into the washing machine to soak. The child’s underwear were on the floor of the bathroom and while the child was in the tub bathing she told her grandmother that Doss had touched her bottom and stuck something in it.
The grandmother examined her granddaughter and so no injuries, but gathered the underwear and placed them into a plastic bag with a few cotton swabs of the alleged area on the girl. Then the grandmother called the police.
When police questioned Doss about the alleged incident, he claimed he had only grabbed the girl by the seat of her pants to try to keep her from falling and hitting her head on a coffee table that was located in front of the couch in his living room.
Doss agreed to take a polygraph (lie detector) test, but it was never administered by the West Virginia State Police officer called in to give the test.
Under cross examination by one of Doss’s attorneys Matt Hatfield, of Hatfield & Hatfield in Madison, the officer claimed Doss confessed to the crime, so there was no need to administer the test.
“You say he confessed, but you do not have any recording or evidence of it,” Hatfield said. “When you did go on the record and recorded his statement he disputes that he confessed, so why didn’t you give him the test? He signed a consent form and that’s what you came there to do, so why didn’t you do it?”
The officer kept claiming that since he admitted it there was no reason to give the test.
“But you have no evidence that he confessed other than your word against his,” Hatfield said. “We you brought him out with the investigating officer and began to record on tape his alleged confession, he disputed it and said he never confessed, but you still didn’t administer the test.”
Hatfield and Doss’s other attorney Ben Mishoe of Shafer & Shafer in Madison, claimed in closing arguments that the investigators and officers involved in the case kept trying to put words into the mouth and mind of Doss.
DNA evidence only showed a mixture of Doss’s DNA and the victims at the top of the girl’s underwear, near the tag, which seemed to support his claim of grabbing her by the back of her pants.
“There was no DNA evidence of blood or semen and no evidence of any injuries to the child,” Mishoe pointed out. “When those test results came back from the State Police Lab this case should have been dismissed. Instead, the prosecution in this case just changed the charges and then indicted him all over again.”
No sexual assault exam was performed on the alleged victim. Her grandmother and police testified that since she had no injuries and already had taken a bath they saw no reason for the exam.
“The child was not even brought to law enforcement until three days after the alleged incident,” Hatfield said in opening arguments. “It was 10 days until a forensic interview, 12 days before a statement was taken from Mr. Doss, a month before a warrant was issued and five weeks before he was arrested. This makes no sense in an alleged sexual abuse case of a child.”
Testimony showed that the child stories about the alleged incident were not consistent.
“Stories kept changing, evidence kept changing and charges kept changing,” Hatfield pointed out to the jury. “Why?”
The alleged victim, now 12-years-old, testified in the case.
She claimed she did fall off the couch and then Doss pulled down her pants and stuck an object in her anal area. She said it all happened very quickly, within a few seconds, and then he let her up.
She said she went to the bathroom and there was some kind of fluid on her that “looked like fish eggs, but without the eggs.” She said she wiped it off.
She also claimed Doss told her not to tell anyone or “they could get in trouble.” Then she left and went home.
The only DNA evidence was on the top of the alleged victim’s underwear and that could have been from touching them.
The prosecution introduced a positive result for saliva, but the State Police officer that administered that lab test testified that the saliva could have come from anyone. There was no way to tell if it came from Doss.
The State Police officer that conducted the forensic interview with the child, which was tape recorded, said he saw no change in the child demeanor during the entire interview.
“In most cases there is a change in demeanor, but sometimes there is not,” he said.
He concluded that it was just as likely nothing happened as it was that something did happen.
Mishoe pointed out to the jury that this represented “reasonable doubt,” which requires them to return a not guilty verdict.
“The burden of proof is on the state in this case and they did not prove anything,” he said.
It did not take long for the jury to return with a “not guilty” verdict on both counts. Doss was free to leave with his family.
“I am so relieved to have this over,” Doss said outside the courthouse. “I just want to get on with my life.”
Mishoe said he was grateful to the jurors for their time and attention.
“I felt from the beginning that my client was not guilty and I am happy that he has been exonerated of these charges,” he said.
Hatfield said he was very pleased with the verdict and happy for his client.
“I am glad he can move on with his life and I hope everyone involved in this can move on with their lives,” he said.