“I didn’t want to believe what was happening was happening,” said the mother of an alleged victim of sex assault during cross-examination in a trial on Tuesday.
Wes Whitaker, 41, is being tried on three felony charges for allegedly sexually abusing the child, then 3, who was in his care.
After being cross-examined by Whitaker, who is representing himself, Missoula County Senior Criminal Attorney Brian Lowney asked the mother how she felt.
“I feel mad and irritated and hurt,” she responded.
Tuesday's testimony on the second day of the trial at the Missoula County Courthouse covered the process the victim went through following the alleged assault, including a medical examination and interviews with law enforcement officials.
After speaking with police, the victim’s mother took her to First Step, a branch of Providence St. Patrick Hospital that provides resources and examinations for children and adults reporting abuse and assault, according to testimony. The victim was given a medical exam and was asked a series of questions by a forensic interviewer.
Adeline Wakeman, the sexual assault nurse examiner at First Step, administered the medical exam. It's her responsibly to conduct the exam and report findings, not to determine if sexual abuse occurred, she said.
Cat Otway, a forensic examiner with First Step, did an interview with the child. She has conducted more than 1,000 forensic interviews with children, she said, about 25% of which she estimated were with young toddlers.
As a forensic examiner, her job is to care for children and adults who come to First Step when there’s a concern of sexual or physical violence, Otway said. She documents injuries, takes care of medical needs, collects evidence and connects victims with support resources.
“My job is not to give an explanation for abuse. My job is to provide a comfortable environment where she feels comfortable talking about what may have happened to her,” Otway said.
Based on what the child told her, Otway noted there were “clear concerns” in the case.
“Oftentimes children this young don’t know that what happened was wrong,” Otway said.
Whitaker cross-examined Otway and asked her if she had knowledge of his relationship with the victim.
He inquired if Otway was aware of how many times he had contact with the victim involving parental duties, such as helping in the bathroom and applying medicine. Otway said she did not know about this.
Jamie Grubb, who was briefly housed in the same cell as Whitaker at the Missoula County Detention Facility after he was arrested in 2018, also testified on Tuesday.
Grubb recalled Whitaker talking about the charges against him, and when Grubb asked if there was truth to them, Whitaker admitted to some sexual contact between himself and the victim, he said.
Grubb also mentioned that Whitaker had photos of the victim hanging on his cell wall.
The trial will continue in Missoula County District Court on Wednesday at 9 a.m.