PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A former day care worker was convicted Friday of abducting a 5-year-old girl from her school classroom and sexually assaulting her during a 19-hour ordeal.
Christina Regusters, 21, donned a Muslim dress and veil to impersonate the girl's mother and take her from Bryant Elementary School in January 2013, then posed as three different people to trick the blindfolded child. The girl was found half-naked the next morning at a cold, dark playground.
The defense had questioned during the three-week trial whether Regusters could have acted alone. But prosecutors said she had viewed child pornography and Japanese anime involving child sexual torture and also looked up how to destroy DNA evidence.
"All the evidence pointed to the existence of one abductor and assailant — Regusters," said prosecutor Erin O'Brien, according to a tweet Friday from the district attorney's office.
Regusters, who is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 15, was convicted of all counts, including kidnapping, aggravated assault and indecent deviate sexual intercourse. She turned down a plea that would have put her behind bars for 40 years to 80 years, according to her attorney.
The child said she was blindfolded and stashed under a bed for most of her captivity. But she recalled hearing a talking bird, a key detail that helped police close in on a suspect.
The defense argued that three other people home that day would have heard the girl's cries during the attack. Defense attorney W. Fred Harrison Jr. suggested an alternative theory: that his client helped an unnamed man commit the crime.
Regusters' DNA — along with a trace of semen — was found on the T-shirt the girl was wearing when she was located. However, other key evidence was never found, including the girl's clothes, her backpack, the clothing the kidnapper wore in the school or the object believed to have been used in the attack.
After the verdict, Harrison said he still believes other people were involved.
"I just don't think that this plan was something conceived by a 19-year-old to do all that was done in this case," Harrison said. "I just don't believe it."
The now-7-year-old girl suffered devastating injuries and needed a colostomy, but she has recovered physically and is now in second grade. She testified briefly during the trial.
Regusters had moved in with an aunt in Philadelphia after her father went to prison in Maryland for assaulting her and a sister. She had worked at a day-care program the girl attended after school, but had been suspended and was home the day of the abduction.
School officials did not realize the girl was missing for six hours, until dismissal time. The victim's family is suing the Philadelphia School District.