Man denies assault charges

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man told a Blair County jury on Tuesday that he never inappropriately touched his former girlfriend’s young daughters.

Taking the stand in his own defense, 24-year-old Michael Francis Sutton said he was alone one time in December with the girls, 6 and 4 years old, lasting about five minutes when their mother left her Fairview Drive apartment and tended to laundry.

“A lot could happen in five minutes,” Assistant District Attorney Derek Elensky reminded Sutton in cross-examination. “Couldn’t you have touched them then?”

“Not at all,” Sutton replied as he referenced the allegations of what happened during those five minutes while the mother left the girls in his care. “How could I have undressed them, stuck my fingers inside them and then dressed them again?”

Sutton’s trial will conclude today when the jury is expected to render verdicts on charges of aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, corruption of minors and aggravated assault of a child less than 13.

The charges, filed by Altoona Police Detective Sgt. Terry Merritts, were based on an investigation launched after the 6-year-old made allegations in January that Sutton touched her and her 4-year-old sister at the Fairview Drive apartment.

On Sutton’s behalf, Assistant Public Defender John Siford asked Merritts why the investigation didn’t require the 6-year-old girl to undergo a medical examination, which could have shed some light on what happened.

Hospitals won’t do a sexual assault examination if an assault is older than 72 hours, Merritts said.

Siford also asked Merritts about the girl’s inconsistent statements when interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center. That’s when the child said Sutton touched her “every morning.” That should have been called into question, Siford said, because Sutton wasn’t at the mother’s residence every morning.

“What’s alarming to me,” Siford told the detective, “is that you’re calling this an investigation.”

Merritts said he and others watched and listened to the 6-year-old’s interview at the Child Advocacy Center as one part of the investigation. The girl, while testifying for the trial on Monday, clutched a stuffed dog and pointed to an area between the dog’s rear legs when asked where Sutton touched her.

Sutton told the jury that he thinks the girl’s mother is behind the allegations. He said the mother became angry with him in January after he broke off their relationship. After the girl’s allegations surfaced, he said the mother contacted him and said she didn’t know who to believe.

Sutton said the mother has also spoken to him about getting back together and about the baby she’s going to have. When the mother testified, she said that Sutton is the father of her unborn baby, but Sutton expressed doubt about the baby’s paternity.

Elensky, when questioning the mother, asked if she had “put words” into her daughter’s mouth.

“Absolutely not,” the mother said.

Sutton also denied the accusations that he has been dealing with for months.

“I know I didn’t touch that little girl. That’s disgusting,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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