With a bow in her hair and a petite frame, the 13-year-old girl who took the stand in a downtown Charleston courtroom on Tuesday, spoke forcefully when a defense attorney questioned her as she described what she said a family friend did to her about four years ago.
Kirby Wright, 48, is accused of sodomizing the child at his Charleston home. He’s charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor and lewd act on a minor.
The child, who will remain unidentified, was the first to testify in the trial, which began on Tuesday morning. While questioned by 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Debbie Herring-Lash, the child told the jury Wright babysat with her three times. Two of those times, she was alone with Wright, she testified.
The child told the jury during one of those occasions Wright lured her into his bedroom by telling her he was going to show her his daughter’s doll house.
“There was no doll house,” she said from the stand.
Instead, the child, who believes she was 10 at the time, said Wright sodomized her and threatened to stab her in the heart if she told anyone.
Wright, a former day porter for a Lowcountry high school, babysat her once more and molested the child, according to her testimony.
When asked by Herring-Lash why she went back to his home after what had happened the first time, she answered: “If I acted like something happened, he would do what he said he would do.”
About two years later, the child told her mother, who dialed 211, a help line that directed her to the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center, according Herring-Lash.
As Wright’s defense attorney, Eduardo Curry, began his questioning, the child became visibly frustrated. When Curry questioned her for not divulging a detail during her testimony that she’d told investigators, the child sat up straight, brought the microphone closer to her, and choked back tears.
“I’m really trying to hold my patience. You really don’t know how it feels to have something like this happen to you,” the child said as she buried her face in her hands. “I know what happened to me. I’m not going to make something like this up. What child would stand up before all these people and tell them something that’s so embarrassing?”
During her opening arguments, Herring-Lash told the jury that this case, like many child sex abuse cases, will not present any DNA evidence or eyewitness testimony.
“Often the child keeps it a secret for a while, like in this case,” she said.
An average of 73 percent of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year and 45 percent do not tell anyone for at least 5 years, according to Darkness to Light’s website.
Curry told the jury this would be a difficult case to hear. “It requires guts to listen to a case where an alleged child victim is involved,” he said. “You may have to make a decision that may not be popular. If the state doesn’t prove its case, you have to make a decision on that.”
The trial is expected to wrap up Wednesday. If convicted, Wright faces the possibility of spending 25 years to life in prison.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.