BEDFORD - A 15-year-old girl's graphic testimony of sexual abuse began a preacher's Bedford trial Wednesday, in an opening day that saw repeated objections, calls for mistrial and personal rivalries boil over to a daylong attorneys' feud.
Despite frequent stops as President Judge Thomas Ling refereed lawyers' disputes, the prosecution completed its case Wednesday against the Rev. Walter Bradshaw, a 63-year-old North Carolina traveling preacher accused of raping a girl, then 11, in a Bedford Township hotel room.
"This is an incredibly sad case, ladies and gentlemen," District Attorney Bill Higgins said in his opening statement.
With the alleged victim's testimony, her jailed mother's surprise appearance and a recorded phone call with Bradshaw as his central evidence, Higgins described a seemingly lovable, grandfatherly figure who persuaded the girl's mother to deliver her for a night of sexual abuse in April 2009.
Bradshaw, a revivalist pastor in the Protestant holiness movement, allegedly used homework help as his excuse to get a night alone with the girl.
"[She's] going to tell you: There was never any homework," Higgins said.
In both his opening statement and a lengthy cross-examination, defense attorney Thomas Crawford painted the 15-year-old - clad in an ankle-length patterned dress, her blonde hair in a tight bun - as a near-constant liar, citing obviously conflicting testimony in prior hearings.
"Do you ever tell the truth?" Crawford asked her, at one point earning an accusation of witness intimidation.
Incensed at the allegation of bullying the witness, Crawford made the first of the day's three mistrial requests.
The girl cried when asked about the night at the Janey Lynn Motel, saying she fought Bradshaw off for more than a half hour as he tried to force himself on her. Bradshaw gave up after his attempts at sex failed, she said.
She described a once-familial relationship with Bradshaw and his wife, whom she came to call "Papa and Grandma" during frequent interstate visits.
She said the relationship turned, however, when Bradshaw began kissing her on the lips and added "sexy baby" to her pet names. The uncomfortable contact culminated, she said, in the night at the motel - after which her mother encouraged her not to mention Bradshaw's alleged crimes.
The girl's mother, currently serving a two- to six-year state prison sentence after pleading no contest in the case, appeared as a witness to describe an alleged admission of guilt Bradshaw later made to her.
Much of the prosecution's case focused on a phone call made from the alleged victim to Bradshaw more than a year after the alleged rape, which was recorded by investigating state troopers.
"I'm sorry that it happened, and I hope you'll find it in your heart to forgive me," Bradshaw said in the recording.
Asked over the phone why he did "all that sexual stuff" to the girl, Bradshaw said, "because you asked me."
The girl and a pair of prosecution witnesses seemed exasperated with Crawford's questions.
The girl rolled her eyes as he noted multiple cases in which she'd allegedly lied in hearings, statements and depositions.
The large courtroom didn't help the testimony. Jurors asked attorneys and witnesses to repeat themselves every few minutes, heightening tensions further.
Amid his three denied mistrial requests, Crawford asked Ling to acquit his client on all charges for lack of evidence. Ling sent the jury away frequently as the dueling attorneys - who share an unpleasant professional history - fought over dozens of case details.
Crawford, based in Pittsburgh, represented Higgins' accuser in a 2008 rape case. The attorneys quietly made snide comments about one another to colleagues throughout the trial's opening day.
"I expect both officers of the court to conduct themselves like gentlemen," Ling said after a particularly heated exchange.
"Yeah, personally we've had some issues," Higgins said after the court adjourned Wednesday. "But it doesn't affect the case."
The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. today in Bedford County court, with Crawford expected to open his defense.
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.