The five-day trial of a Penticton man who is accused of sexually assaulting and prostituting his stepdaughter began on Monday.
The man, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban to protect the teenage girl, is charged with three counts of sexual assault, sexual interference of a person under 14, sexual interference of a person under 16, two counts of living on the avails of prostitution of a person under 18, sexual exploitation, parent of guardian procuring sexual activity and aiding a person to engage in prostitution. The charges are based out of Osoyoos, Okanagan Falls, Surrey and Penticton.
Crown counsel Wendy Kavanagh said she would begin the trial with evidence on the sexual relationship between the man and his stepdaughter before going into the charges related to prostituting later in the week.
Judge Gregory Korturbash heard evidence from several family members on Monday morning at the Penticton provincial court including the girl’s aunts and brother on observations made in the household where they saw the girl go behind a closed door into the master bedroom where her stepfather slept.
One aunt said she moved into the same household in Osoyoos as the accused and the girl where up to 13 other family members and friends lived at the same time. She testified the girl would go into the master bedroom behind a closed door with the accused around 8:30 or 9 p.m. for at least an hour or two every night.
A longtime friend of the girl’s mother said she and her kids moved into the girl’s family home in Okanagan Falls in 2008, distinctly recalling the exact date as she was pregnant at the time. The friends said the girl was “made to put her dad to bed” every night while the mother played on the computer until the wee hours of the morning. The friend testified on one occasion she opened the master bedroom door to wake the accused for work and found him naked with his step-daughter in bed. She said the girl, who was around 12 years old at the time, was covered with the bed sheet so it was not known if she was naked.
The friend said she saw the accused grab the girl’s breasts over top her clothes several times complimenting them, and at one time grabbed the girl’s hips stating they were “beautiful child-bearing hips.” She said the girl would have an “awkward, scared, not comfortable look,” and looked to have “big eyes, fearful and scared.” The friend said the girl’s mother seemed not to acknowledge what was happening or did not care and the friend felt the behaviour with the accused may start to occur with her own children and decided it was time to leave the household. But not before she got into a blowup with the accused, calling him a “diddler” and “child molester.”
Defence counsel James Pennington suggested to the friend that she was providing the accused with cocaine to sell for her. Pennington asked if the real reason she left was that the accused’s wife became angry because of this, which she responded no. The friend also denied having a criminal record, but when asked again by Pennington about an assault from the late 90s she said she had forgot about that and admitted to having a record.
The morning ended with testimony from the girl’s brother, who said he moved out of the family household at 16. He said he returned a few times to live with them in Okanagan Falls when he was struggling to pay rent and earlier in Osoyoos when he worked in the town for a few months.
The girl’s brother said he began questioning why his sister was going into her stepfather’s bedroom at night and was told the stepfather wanted a back massage from the girl every night. He said his mother “refused to have a conversation” about what was happening and would avoid it. He recalled sitting next to his mother one evening in Osoyoos while both were playing on computers and hearing noises from the master bedroom where his sister and stepfather were behind closed door. He said he turned to his mother asking if she “was going to check that out” and was given a look that he recognized as leave it alone. The brother said with remorse that looking back at everything that was happening during that time he wished he had called RCMP.
Kavanagh said later in the week-long trial the court will hear from police who made observations of the girl on the “stroll” at a bust stop next to the Penticton Soupeteria on the corner of Martin Street and Orchard Street. The Crown said three men that allegedly hired the teenage girl for sexual services or had contact with her would take the stand on Thursday. This includes Benjamin Wolfe and Baldev Singh Toor. Cavanagh said the court would also hear evidence from RCMP officers that knew the girl was prostituting in Surrey and on Friday hear evidence from undercover officers investigating the alleged prostitution occurring in Penticton.
Both Crown and defence counsel provided an agreed statement of facts to the judge on Monday morning that the accused was aware of the date of birth and age of the girl.
For more on this story see Wednesday’s Penticton Western News or for more trial coverage return to www.pentictonwesternnews.com.