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Hagerstown man guilty in rape of 11-year-old girl

April 30, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A Washington County Circuit judge on Thursday found a Hagerstown man guilty of raping an 11-year-old girl last summer.

Matthew David Mercer, 22, whose last known address before his arrest was an apartment at 140 E. Franklin St. in Hagerstown, was found guilty of second-degree rape, third-degree sex offense, fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault.

Circuit Judge John H. McDowell found Mercer guilty of the charges following a half-day trial.

Mercer, dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, shook his head upon hearing the verdict.

He was being held at the Washington County Detention Center pending a pre-sentence investigation.

McDowell cited the victim's appearance in court and "the believability of her testimony" before finding Mercer guilty of all charges.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion said in her opening statement that the 11-year-old girl was taken to Robinwood Medical Center on Sept. 24 and found to be seven weeks pregnant, sparking a police investigation. She said that one night in August the girl, her mother and brother spent the night at Mercer's apartment while he worked on the mother's car, at which time the girl was raped by Mercer.

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Cirincion said that on Oct. 8, the girl was taken to Washington County Hospital and miscarried a 7- to 8-week-old fetus.

She said the fetus was tested for DNA, but no link could be made to Mercer because the fetal matter included only maternal DNA.

The girl, who is not being named to protect her identity, took the witness stand clutching a small teddy bear. She testified she was in and out of foster care last summer, but remembered that sometime after her Aug. 12 birthday, she was with her family and went to Mercer's apartment to have her mother's car fixed.

They stayed the night in Mercer's living room because the wheels were still off the car and it could not be driven home, she testified.

"He woke me up and told me to go the bathroom," the girl, who continuously wiped tears from her eyes, testified. After a brief recess called because the girl got more emotional, she said that Mercer "pulled my shorts down and laid me on the floor."

She said that she told him no, but he proceeded to have sex with her.

Her mother, who is not being named to protect the identity of the child, could not remember when the family stayed at Mercer's home or when precisely her daughter was out of foster care.

She testified that she did not call police when she learned of the incident, saying that she didn't have a phone and was concerned that the Department of Social Services would take away her daughter if they learned she was pregnant. She testified that previously, Social Services took her daughter in April 2003 when workers there learned the then-10-year-old was pregnant from a separate sexual encounter.

Hagerstown Police Department Detective Shane Blankenship testified that he sat in on a Sept. 8 interview conducted by a Social Services worker at the girl's school, and the girl denied having sex. Blankenship testified that in an interview with the girl he conducted Sept. 24, the girl did not deny being raped and Mercer was developed as a suspect.

Mercer's fiance, Pennie Imes, testified that she remembered the girl's family coming to their apartment around the July 4 holiday. Mercer's friend, Brad Stottlemyer, testified he had been at the house around July 4 and overheard Mercer discussing repairs to the car.

Mercer testified that the repairs took place around July 4. He denied having sex with the girl.

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