Teen testifies against woman in child abuse trial
Jessica Dawn Hewitt facing multiple felonies for alleged sexual assault of boy a decade ago
An Altoona teenager testified Monday in Blair County Court that he didn’t understand what was happening to him more than a decade ago, when around the age of 4 or 5, a female caretaker sexually abused him, but he told the jury, “the pain … the scared feeling … the anger, they are all still there.”
The teen expressed that anger and irritation on the witness stand when questioned about details of the abuse by Altoona defense attorney Steven P. Passarello, who is representing Jessica Dawn Hewitt, 34, of Altoona.
She faces multiple felony charges stemming from the alleged abuse, including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful contact with a minor.
Blair County Assistant District Attorney Deanne Paul, in her opening statement, mentioned an old Disney movie in which a child imagined a monster in his bedroom.
Pointing toward Hewitt, Paul said, “The monster who would come into his room is that person right there.”
Far from being a monster, Passarello responded, Hewitt is a citizen who, like everyone else, is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and he urged the jury to keep an open mind until the trial comes to a conclusion.
The boy has had a rough go in his young life. His mother died when he was 3.
His father landed in prison, and he eventually ended up in a foster home where, little by little, he revealed to a good friend the abuse that he said occurred to him years earlier.
The friend told his mother, who alerted Blair County Children, Youth & Families.
Passarello asked the jury to pay attention to the details as they emerge from the many witnesses who are to testify this week, pointing out the boy “is going to tell you he doesn’t remember anything from when he was 4.”
By the time he was 6 years old, his father was in jail, and he was no longer living in the same home with Hewitt.
That time line “is critical in this case,” Passarello told the jury.
He went on to point out that the father’s family blames Hewitt for his imprisonment and for his eventual divorce.
He mentioned a possible motive by the boy to make up a story by stating that the father and Hewitt are involved in a custody case concerning the two children they had together.
“Ironically, (the custody case) is scheduled for September,” Passarello said.
He went on to say that there is no medical evidence, no DNA and no eyewitnesses to support the child abuse scenario, and he told the jury that, from Hewitt’s point of view, “there is nothing worse, more heinous” than to be labeled a child sex offender.
When the teen took the witness stand Monday afternoon, he said that Hewitt — when his father was out of town working during the week — abused him “physically, sexually and mentally.”
He said Hewitt would beat him with a belt.
She would place him and a younger sister in the cellar for lengthy periods with the lights off.
“What would you do?” Paul asked the teen.
“Huddle and cry,” he said.
She would enter his room or take him to her room where she would touch him and have him touch her, and she would abuse him with a sex toy.
He described what she did as “painful.”
He testified he was frightened and attempted to avoid her, but to no avail.
The young man said he experienced “sadness” and said, “I was violated, and I didn’t know what to do about it.”
When closely questioned by Passarello concerning the timeline, he couldn’t place the year or his specific age when these events occurred.
Paul asked how felt about testifying.
“I am told it’s always good to let your emotions out. … I don’t want to do this at all,” he said.
The teen testified from an upstairs room with Judge Elizabeth Doyle and the attorneys, while his testimony was sent by video to the courtroom where the jury was located.
The trial will continue today with testimony from agency workers and police officers.