MARYSVILLE, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio National Guardsman accused of sexually abusing his adopted daughters and a stepdaughter strongly denied the charges during trial testimony Wednesday.
"Did that ever happen?" defense attorney George Leach asked the defendant, referring to an allegation the man had abused his stepdaughter by touching her inappropriately.
"Negative," replied the guardsman, a 20-year military veteran, during testimony in Union County court.
Asked later if he abused an adopted daughter, he replied, "Absolutely not."
The defendant, 42, of Marysville in central Ohio, was originally charged in 2013; the charges were updated last year. They include rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition, intimidation and tampering with evidence. He has pleaded not guilty.
The defendant's wife is charged with intimidation and obstruction, but not abuse. She pleaded not guilty.
The Associated Press isn't naming the couple to protect the children's identities.
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 back to her adoptive parents in Idaho in July 2012 against her will after she threatened other children in the family with a similar fate to keep them from talking about what they knew.
The defendant and his wife both deny that, saying the girl had been causing numerous problems and they'd already planned to return her to her parents.
A prosecutor has portrayed the defendant as a man who betrayed, in the worst way possible, the responsibility a father has for protecting his daughter, while the man's attorney said the rapes never happened and pointed the finger instead at the man's stepson.
Both the guardsman and his wife testified that the boy has been accused of sexually assaulting children in the house, while the guardsman said his nephew was also suspected of sexually assaulting one of his stepdaughters years ago.
The guard acknowledged he was the disciplinarian of the family and said he used a piece of wood flooring about 16 inches long to administer "two to three swats" when spanking was necessary. He denied ever leaving bruises. He said his role as father was to "provide, protect, discipline."
Earlier Wednesday, the man's wife testified she never saw signs of abuse by her husband and believed her daughters would have told her. Both she and the defendant testified that one of the girls once threatened to make an allegation of sex abuse if her phone was taken away.
The defendant's wife said another one of the girls was abused in an orphanage before she was adopted.
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. But during Wednesday testimony, he described himself as on sabbatical.
In a 2008 story in a military publication, the man spoke about his large family and about wanting to adopt a girl from Africa to protect her from sexual assault.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Michener suggested that the defendant chose girls who'd been sexually assaulted overseas as potential adoptees because they would make easy targets. The guardsman adamantly denied that suggestion.