Jury Starts Deliberations In Child-molestation Case 3 -year-old Case Is A Trial Of Identification

November 30, 1990|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

While her older sister watched, an 8-year-old Brooklyn Park girl on her way to the store was snatched from a street corner, pulled into a truck and driven away. Later, the driver molested her and dumped her in Arbutus.

That abduction and assault happened in March 1987. Three years later, the police arrested a suspect.

Now a county Circuit Court jury is grappling with the question: Was Jeffrey Meredith Chaney the kidnapper?

The jury, which began deliberating yesterday afternoon after 2 days of testimony, was told no one is disputing that the girl was sexually assaulted. The case is one of identification.

After deliberating for two hours yesterday, the jury was excused. It is scheduled to resume deliberations today.

Chaney, 35, of Elkridge is charged with kidnapping, assault and battery and a third-degree sex offense. In her closing argument yesterday, Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris said the victim and her 11-year-old sister were able to pick the man out of a photo spread and identify him as the attacker. And she said a string of circumstantial evidence should persuade the jury to convict the man.

Assistant public defender James McCarthy Jr. said the identifications are not reliable, the circumstantial evidence is lacking and his client has an airtight alibi for the night of the crime.

The two sisters were on their way to a store when a man in a truck pulled up beside them at the intersection of Fourth Street and Audrey Avenue during the evening of March 11, 1987. The 8-year-old testified that her abductor was driving a dark-colored Ford Bronco pulling a trailer.

She said the man slapped her in the face when she refused his orders to hold her head down, and then drove behind a truck stop, where he molested her. After he left her in Arbutus, she went to a house and asked for help.

Police were called, but Chaney did not emerge as a suspect until three years later.

The circumstantial evidence outlined by Ferris included a chemical analysis of a semen stain left on the girl's skirt the night of the assault. It showed the attacker has a rare enzyme known as "PGM2+." Michael Marinaro, a forensic chemist for the state police, said only 3 percent of white males have the enzyme, and Chaney's blood contains the enzyme.

Also, Ferris said, the girl led police to a pile of items that fell out of the man's truck during the abduction, and the debris contained a wrapper from a hardware store located near Chaney's home. She added that the girl was left about half a mile from Chaney's home, and that the defendant drove a black Bronco and, as part of his work as a mechanic, owned several trailers.

McCarthy, the defense attorney, pointed out that Chaney's fingerprints were not found on any of the items dumped out of the truck. And he said other findings from the chemical analysis of the semen stain actually exonerate his client.

"Jeffrey Chaney is guilty of living in Arbutus and having a dark-colored Bronco. He's guilty of having a trailer, he's guilty of living within a half-mile or a mile of some hardware store. I think that's all the circumstances we've got," McCarthy told the jury.

He said identification testimony is the most unreliable form of evidence. Ferris said the jury should trust the girls' positive identifications because "that man's face is on their brain forever. This is the most traumatic event that's ever happened to those girls, and they are never, ever going to forget his face."

Testimony revealed that the attacker had a mustache and beard and that Chaney had, until last week, worn facial hair. While on the witness stand, Chaney said he had shaved his mustache on McCarthy's advice.

"He looks like the All-American boy today," Ferris said.

McCarthy said, "You're darn right I told him to take the mustache off because I don't want a mustache going to jail unless it did something."

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