Girl, 9, tells of alleged rape

HOLLIDAYSBURG – An elementary schoolgirl told a Blair County jury on Wednesday that a 42-year-old man she knew through her mother had raped and abused her in other ways beginning when she was 5 and ending when her situation became known to city police at age 8.

Police arrested William D. Leigh of the 700 block of Bell Avenue in February after a nine-month investigation.

The youngster took a stuffed animal and containers of Play-Doh to the stand with her, and while she moved the Play-Doh around as a way to relax, she answered questions posed by Assistant District Attorney Derek Elensky and defense attorney Mark Zearfaus.

The youngster said that Leigh frequently molested her in many ways. At one point, Elensky asked her if she had ever seen anyone having sex or ever seen a sexually oriented magazine.

She said she had not. But, unexpectedly, she said Leigh had shown her a video.

The abuse came to light in May 2013 when the youngster told one of her friends about Leigh’s abuse. The friend reported it to her mother.

The case was then referred to the Altoona Police Department.

“Child sexual crimes happen in secret, but there is a person who can testify – the child victim,” Elensky told a jury that included eight men and four women, plus four alternates.

He asked the jurors to use their “common sense” when listening to the facts and deciding the case.

“Recognize,” he said, “this is not going to be easy for her. Is she believable? Is she credible? Why would she be putting herself through this?” Elensky told the jury.

Leigh, he said, is accused of child rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and aggravated indecent sexual assault.

Zearfaus fired back at the prosecution by telling the jury to play close attention to a video taken when the youngster described what occurred to her while meeting with a child interview specialist, Shannon Cassaboom of the Children’s Resource Center in Harrisburg.

The defense attorney told the jury the youngster altered her story each time she told it.

“She changes her story all the time to fit what the facts are supposed to be,” Zearfaus said.

The youngster was questioned several times by Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan and by Elensky to test her credibility.

Before she even began to testify, Elensky asked her: What happens if you tell a lie?

“You get in big trouble,” the youngster said.

The girl testified how Leigh told her not to tell anyone what he was doing to her.

She related she crawled on her hands and knees during one incident in an attempt to get away from him, but he grabbed her by the knees and dragged her back to the bed.

In May 2013, she revealed that Leigh was “doing inappropriate things” to her.

The girl said she was afraid to tell her mother.

The youngster said the incidents of abuse at times hurt her, drew blood at one point and described one incident as “yucky.”

Cassaboom said she had interviewed more than 2,225 children in her eight years with the Resource Center.

The center is not an investigative agency, she said, but objective in nature, allowing the child to described what happened to her in her own words.

The trial is expected to conclude today.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.