BISBEE — A 9-year-old girl holding a stuffed animal took the stand in a courtroom Thursday morning and told a prosecutor and a jury how she was sexually abused by her babysitter’s son four years ago.
The girl, 5 at the time of the assault, recalled almost every detail of the incident that occurred in the Sierra Vista home of defendant Nathan Rojas, even down to the pain she felt.
It was the second day of Rojas’ re-trial in Cochise County Superior Court on a charge of sexual conduct with a minor.
The girl had been in a daycare that Rojas’ mother ran from her house. Rojas lived a few houses down from his mother and was accused of taking the girl from the daycare and assaulting her in his bedroom, investigators said.
Rojas was tried and found guilty of the offense in July 2018. But because a news blogger in the courtroom at the time took video of the proceedings and later published it on social media, showing the faces of some of the jurors, a new trial was granted. The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the Cochise County Superior Court judge who granted the new trial.
At the start of Rojas’ trial Wednesday in front of Superior Court Judge James Conlogue, Cochise County Deputy Attorney Terisha Driggs told jurors, “You are here today because the defendant had sexual misconduct with a 5-year-old girl.”
Driggs described the events of Aug. 25, 2016, in a bedroom of Rojas’ Sierra Vista residence. Driggs told jurors that the girl — who is not being named because of her age — would not tell her mother later that day what occurred because it was “mine and Nathan’s secret.”
The child’s mother called a friend who is a nurse practitioner and asked her to come to her residence. The child told the nurse what had happened. The nurse told the girl’s mother to call police.
On Thursday when the girl testified, she said she was assaulted by Rojas and was physically hurt. She recalled she thought she and Rojas were going to his residence to “get snacks.”
The mother was the first to testify on Wednesday, followed by the nurse practitioner.
The prosecution also called the Sierra Vista police officer who responded to the youngster’s house and forensic interviewer Brenda Parker from Lori’s Place, a family advocacy center in Sierra Vista, who recorded an interview with the girl. That interview was played for the jury Thursday afternoon.
Veteran nurse Lori Rutherford, the founder of Lori’s Place, was the last witness to testify Thursday. She examined the girl at Canyon Vista Medical Center the day of the assault.
The trial was to resume Friday at 9 a.m. Conlogue said the proceeding is expected to wrap up on July 17.