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Shane Thomas Pelletier

Shane Thomas Pelletier

Trial began Wednesday for a Missoula man accused of raping a 19-year-old woman at his apartment after finding her passed out and soaked in vomit at a downtown parking garage.

The woman and some friends had been drinking heavily earlier that night in July 2017. The last thing she remembered was taking a shot from a bottle of Fireball near the river at Caras Park. She testified Wednesday that she awoke in an apartment she did not recognize to find a man she did not know raping her.

Shane Pelletier, 29 at the time, was arrested on suspicion of sexual intercourse without consent in August 2017. On Wednesday his attorney, Regional Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Streano, argued Pelletier had simply brought the woman home, gave her some food and clothes after she had showered, and went to sleep. Indeed, they had sex, she said, but only after morning had come and the intercourse appeared to be consensual.

Pelletier, she said, had hoped the encounter would have blossomed into a relationship.

But 20 minutes after the woman left his apartment, she texted a friend: "… I don't remember s---, I basically just got raped."

Surveillance footage from the bus after she left his apartment that morning and shown during Day One of the trial shows the woman walking toward the bus with Pelletier in tow. She tries to get on the bus, but Pelletier urges her back to check the front of the bus, to make sure she's getting on the right one. She walks back toward the doors, but he asks for a hug. She gives him one, and he writes his number on her arm. She starts to get on the bus, but he reaches out and asks for another hug.

As the woman watched the video in court on Wednesday, Deputy County Attorney Brian Lowney asked why she agreed to a hug after the events that night. 

"Mostly because I was confused at the time and I didn't know what was going on," she said, beginning to break down in tears that would spur the judge to order a short break. "I thought what had happened might have been my fault."

A friend later testified the woman had become so drunk that she ran away from her friends and boyfriend who were drinking by the river. 

When the woman woke up, she said she saw a man she would later identify in a lineup as Pelletier pressed against her while raping her. She passed out again when she realized she couldn't do anything about it, she said Wednesday. When she woke up, there was light coming through the window and she said Pelletier was trying to assault her again.

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She refused, asked him some questions and left, she said. She didn't tell him "no" when he asked to walk her to the bus station because she was afraid to tell him so.

The alleged rape sent the woman into an alcohol spiral, she said, costing her both friends and her boyfriend at the time of the incident. She's since only told a small handful of people about the events that night, and sees a therapist on campus at the Student Advocacy Resource Center. 

Today she's in recovery, she said, drinking a normal amount for a person her age. Lowney asked why she would subject herself to reliving the experience. 

"'Cause I feel like I'm not the only one who suffered from what happened," she said. "It wasn't my fault."

Trial resumes Thursday in Missoula County District Court. It is expected to last a total of three days.

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Criminal justice