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Judge finds probable cause in sex case

Matthew David Mercer faces charges in the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl

Matthew David Mercer faces charges in the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl

December 04, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A Hagerstown City Police detective testified Wednesday in Washington County District Court that he filed charges against a Hagerstown man after an 11-year-old girl told him she had been sexually assaulted.

Washington County District Judge Ralph H. France determined after the preliminary hearing that there was probable cause to forward charges against Matthew David Mercer, 22, of 140 E. Franklin St., to Circuit Court.

Mercer is charged with second-degree rape, second-degree assault, and third- and fourth-degree sex offense.

Court records allege that the girl became pregnant after contact with Mercer in his apartment, but is no longer pregnant.

The girl previously miscarried a child in April. A 15-year-old Hagerstown boy admitted to a fourth-degree sex offense charge in connection with the girl.

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Mercer remained silent through the hearing.

Detective Shane Blankenship testified that he first contacted the girl on Sept. 8 on a tip that she had been raped. But when he and a social worker spoke to the girl, she said she had not been raped or had sex.

Blankenship said that on Sept. 24, however, a medical examination determined the girl was 7 1/2 weeks pregnant. He and another social worker went to the Safeplace Child Advocacy Center in Hagerstown to interview her.

The girl said that in early August, she and her mother were staying with Mercer, who was a family friend, Blankenship testified. He had been performing auto work, but because he had not finished the work, the girl and mother stayed at the apartment.

Under questioning by Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Brett Wilson, Blankenship said the girl couldn't pinpoint exactly which day the assault occurred, but she was positive that it was Mercer, and he was the only person responsible for her pregnancy.

"She in fact told him 'no,' and he completed the act anyway," Blankenship testified. He said the incident occurred inside the bathroom.

Blankenship said DNA evidence connected to the case was being processed at a private laboratory, but results were not back.

He said the girl has been placed in foster care.

Assistant Public Defender John Chillas, representing Mercer, argued that no one else inside the home witnessed the incident.

"There were obviously a lot of people in the apartment. Apparently none of them heard it," Chillas told France.

"I think there's overwhelming evidence here for probable cause," France said.

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