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Alleged victim takes the stand in Makris trial

 


In day three of the State vs. George Makris, the courtroom was tense as the 12-year-old alleged sexual assault victim took the stand to testify about her reported abuse.

Makris was charged last summer with first degree sexual assault of a child and third degree sexual assault of a child, both felonies. The defendant is accused of touching his female minor relative in inappropriate ways over the course of multiple years.

During her testimony in Cheyenne County District Court, the alleged victim said she stayed in Sidney frequently in the past with Makris’s mother. The girl slept next to Makris on a futon in his mother’s basement sometimes when both she and Makris were staying there, she added.

The alleged abuse began when the minor was around six-years-old, with just hugging and heavy breathing, according the girl. This touching progressively became more extensive and intrusive over the course of a two year span.

The girl described instances in which she was sleeping and Makris came into the basement and began to touch her.

“It felt weird and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on,” she told the court.

The abuse continued on occasions when both she and Makris were staying in his mother’s home, and also on trips to visit him in California from when she was between six to nine she said.

As the alleged victim testified about specific intrusive acts, many of the jurors were visibly upset. She decided to tell someone about the alleged abuse after she saw Makris touching her two year old sister inappropriately during bath time, she said.

Makris told the alleged victim not to tell anyone about the abuse or she would regret it. This is why it took her so long to tell the full story, she added. She confirmed that Makris’ mother was alright with her sleeping with him and showering with him.

“I was still a little scared about what would happen if I told and it was embarrassing,” she said.

No one else was ever present when the alleged touching occurred, she stated, but Makris’ mother knew that they slept on the futon together. The alleged victim added that Makris did do nice things for her and her siblings at other times, like take them to the park or to get ice cream.

Don Miller, representing the defense, asked the girl if it was true that she had described events relating to this case differently at different times. The girl confirmed that in some instances she had. He also asked her about specific dates, which she could not remember.

She admitted that there were usually other people in Makris’ mother’s house during the times when the alleged abuse occurred.

“I’m not sure that they were aware of what was going on,” she said.

The alleged victim said that she never told anyone she didn’t want to go downstairs with Makris.

Miller asked her about various differing stories, some varying slightly and some changing more significantly. He asked about inconsistencies in her reports about the undergarments Makris wore and bodily positions when the alleged abuse took place.

Miller than asked if all the explanations and analogies she made were her own and hadn’t been fed to her by anyone else. They had not, she said.

She confirmed that no one told her what to say.

The state next brought in two character witnesses to testify on the girl’s behalf. The first was the mother of one of the alleged victim’s classmates. This witness’ daughter was friends with the alleged victim from kindergarten through fourth grade. The alleged victim would come to her house for slumber parties and sometimes the witness would have dinner with the girl’s parents.

“In my opinion, she is a truthful individual,” the witness said.

The next character witness was the alleged victim’s fourth grade teacher. The alleged victim was never in trouble, always had friends and seemed like a nice little girl, he said.

“I felt she was truthful in class and overall,” he told the court. He also admitted he would identify about 75 percent of his students as truthful.

The jury then heard testimony from two expert witnesses. The first was Dr. Suzanne Haney, a child abuse pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Omaha. She reviewed the forensic interviews, police reports and medical reports in this case. She confirmed that it wasn’t surprising for there to be no reported physical injury to the girl since the physical exam took place months after the last occurrence of alleged abuse.

Haney confirmed that many abuse victims have normal physical exams. A cut or abrasion in the vaginal area heals very quickly, like the skin inside the mouth, she added. Haney also divulged that sometimes victims might disclose abuse to one person and then deny it to another.

She confirmed to Miller that findings of no physical trauma are also consistent with a false report of abuse.

The next witness was Lieutenant Keith Andrew of the Sidney police. Andrew viewed an interview between Makris and another investigator on closed circuit TV in July 2011. Makris, a California man, came to Sidney voluntarily for this interview. Makris indicated during that interview that he did sleep in the same bed with his female minor relative on the futon in his mother’s basement on a fairly frequent basis when they were both staying there.

Next Dr. Barbara Sturgis, a psychologist in Norfolk who has expertise in interviewing children, took the stand.

“Most of the time I talk about the dynamics of how kids tell,” she said.

She also testified about suggestibility of children and appropriate interview techniques. These are common issues in this type of case, she said. She viewed the three interviews done with the alleged victim.

“There is no one typical way a child necessarily would disclose having been sexually abused or assaulted,” Sturgis said.

A child might tell little bits of their abuse story at a time, and there are a plethora of reasons that a child might be reticent to tell someone, she added. They might not understand that it’s abuse, they feel guilty, they worry about whether or not they’ll be believed and they worry about the impact on the family.

“In general, children don’t like to upset grownups,” Sturgis said.

She also confirmed that concepts of time, especially when talking about exact dates in the past can be challenging for children and even for grownups.

A child might also wait to disclose all the details of the abuse after they find out that parents aren’t angry with them about it.

“Kids wait to talk about the more intimate, or icky stuff until later,” Sturgis said. She also informed the court that a child might find the abusive relationship to be positive in the time that abuse isn’t occurring.

She confirmed that a bad interview could taint a child’s memory, as well as reinforcing specific answers. Younger children are more easily influenced, she added. Children and grownups can have distorted memory.

Sturgis confirmed that any of this behavior might also be confirmation of a false report.

The first witness for the defense was Neal Makris, George Makris’ brother. He currently lives with George Makris in California.

George Makris tried to stay more involved with the alleged victim and her brother’s lives after their mother died, Neal Makris explained.

Neal Makris said in observing interactions between George Makris and the alleged victim on her trips to California, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

“She was very happy to see him,” Neal Makris said.

She would fill the defendant in on what was going on in her life and did not seem fearful or depressed when he was around, Neal Makris claimed. Neal Makris and George Makris moved in together in 2007 and have lived together since then, besides the time that George Makris has lived with his mother in Sidney because of the current court case.

Neal said that he never saw any inappropriate conduct between his brother and the alleged victim.

The defense’s last witness on Wednesday was Nicholas Makris of Sidney. He is the nephew of George Makris. He stayed at Makris’ mothers house during holidays and over the summer break while he was in college in 2008 and 2009. The alleged victim and her brother also stayed there often during those times. Nicholas Makris did see the minor and George Makris sleeping on the futon together one time, the witness said.

“That was the only time I noticed them being in that proximity under those circumstances,” Nicholas Makris said.

He also recalled a time when the alleged victim had asked if she could sleep with George Makris. Nicholas Makris said he remembered this incident in particular because he thought it seemed unusual. He also testified that he and his siblings spent time with Makris when they were children, roughhousing and tickling and that he never saw any inappropriate conduct from George Makris toward himself or any of his juvenile relatives.

The alleged victim’s mother, a relative of Makris, died in a car crash when the daughter was very young. Makris kept in touch with her children after her death and often saw them at family gatherings in Sidney where his mother lives.

 

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