MARYSVILLE, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio National Guardsman who has said he wanted to adopt a girl from Africa to protect her from rape went on trial Monday on charges he sexually abused three adopted daughters and his stepdaughter.
A prosecutor portrayed the defendant as a man who betrayed the responsibility a father has for protecting his daughter in the worst way possible, while the man's attorney said the rapes never happened and pointed the finger instead at the man's stepson, who has never been implicated.
The defendant, 42, of Marysville in central Ohio, was originally charged in 2013, and the charges were updated last year. The charges include rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition, intimidation and tampering with evidence. He has pleaded not guilty.
Court documents indicate the girls were under 13 at the time they said the abuse occurred, with one as young as 5. Prosecutors say the defendant and his wife abruptly sent a fourth girl living with them to Idaho in July 2012 against her will and threatened other children in the family with a similar fate to keep them from talking about what they knew.
The defendant's wife is charged with intimidation and obstruction but not abuse. She pleaded not guilty, and her attorney declined to comment while the case is pending.
The Associated Press isn't naming the couple to protect the children's identities.
"A father has to let his daughters know they can trust them," Assistant Attorney General Christopher Kinsler told the jury in his opening statement. Instead, "he raped and molested them."
Kinsler said the attacks happened in the girls' bedrooms. The attorney general's office is prosecuting the case.
The defendant's lawyer countered that the victims recanted in every instance, and said it was the man's stepson — his wife's son from a previous marriage — who had been sleeping with three of the girls.
Attorney George Leach said the defendant was away more than he should have been, and was considered the disciplinarian of the family, but never raped the children.
"Don't find him guilty of raping his kids for those kinds of mistakes," Leach said in his opening statement.
Kinsler said the girl who was sent away had originally been adopted by a couple in Idaho but had come to live with the defendant and his family.
Leach said because the girl was troubled and constantly acting up, a decision had been made to return her to her adopted parents in Idaho. Leach implied the girl then plotted with the other children to make the sexual assault allegations in an unsuccessful attempt not to be sent to Idaho.
A local prosecutor said last fall that the children were no longer living with the father.
The Guardsman remains a major with an Ohio National Guard unit out of Springfield and works one weekend per month, according to the organization's community relations office. In a 2008 story in a military publication, the man spoke about his large family and about wanting to adopt a girl to protect her from sexual assault.