A sample of DNA collected from a 5-year-old was consistent with the DNA of the man accused of molesting him, an analyst testified during the man’s trial Wednesday.
The third day of Joshua Winters’ trial focused on evidence collected in the case and allegations that he molested children in the past. Prosecutors charged Winters, 34, with aggravated kidnapping, first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor in July for allegedly leading a 5-year-old boy from the El Mark-O bowling alley to the banks of the North Platte River and molesting him there.
During the investigation, authorities collected biological samples from Winters’ body, a hat believed to belong to the defendant and the boy’s body.
The Wyoming Medical Center nurse who completed the sexual assault exam on the boy said in court Wednesday that she found no injuries to the child besides minor scratches and a bruise on his hip. But she said that sexual assault victims often don’t have any noticeable injuries.
She said she asked the boy if he knew why he was at the hospital and that he said “no.” She asked him if he was hurting, and he said “no.” But when she asked him if anybody had hurt him, the boy didn’t answer.
Kathryn Normington, the analyst from the State Crime Lab who examined the biological samples, said she found DNA from a swab of the boy that was consistent with samples taken from Winters’ mouth. She said that there was a one in 1.37 septillion chance of picking a random individual who matched that specific of a DNA profile.
Earlier in her testimony, Normington said that it would be highly improbable that DNA would pass through clothing or would be transferred via river water.
Allegations from the past
Some of the memories of the abuse are unclear now that almost 20 years have passed, a 24-year-old man said in court Wednesday while recounting earlier abuse by Winters. But one remains vivid.
As a child, the man was often at the home of his grandparents, who had adopted Joshua Winters as their son.
“We were always together,” the 24-year-old man said in court Wednesday. “Pretty happy. We got along, not a lot of fighting.”
The man distinctly remembers being in the basement of an abandoned home in the quiet Rhode Island neighborhood where he and Winters lived in 1998. At the time, Winters was 15 years old and the man was a child of 5.
In the basement, Winters molested the boy, the man testified in court.
While he knew other assaults happened, he doesn’t remember them as clearly, he said. Nobody in his family knew until he made a comment to his mother that he and Winters had been “making babies.”
In a May 5 letter to the attorneys in the case, Natrona County District Court Judge Thomas Sullins decided that evidence of sexual abuse allegations from Winters’ past could be introduced in trial.
According to the letter, Winters admitted to investigators in 1998 that he touched the boy on multiple occasions. He also admitted to sexually abusing his 11-year-old adoptive sister on multiple occasions over a period of about six weeks.
Winters was never charged with a crime in either incident and the matter was settled in a Rhode Island family court.
Motion to dismiss kidnapping charge
After the jury was dismissed for the day, public defender Rob Oldham requested that the judge acquit Winters of the kidnapping charge.
Winters is charged with aggravated kidnapping, which carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. To meet the statute’s definition of the crime, the prosecution must show that Winters did not release the child “substantially unharmed” or in a safe place.
Oldham argued Wednesday that the prosecution has failed to produce evidence that showed the boy was harmed.
“I don’t recall any evidence so far that (the boy) was substantially harmed when my client released him on Fairside Road,” Oldham said.
Judge Sullins disputed that analysis and said that if the boy was indeed sexually assaulted then that itself could count as substantial harm.
Assistant District Attorney Brett Johnson noted that the statute does not require physical harm and that the trauma of sexual assault sometimes does not surface for a long period of time. He also said that if Winters did indeed leave the boy alone on the side of Fairside Road at dusk that the location would not count as a safe place.
Sullins denied the request to acquit Winters of the charge and said that there was a good argument to show Winters left the boy in an unsafe location.
The prosecution finished presenting its evidence Wednesday afternoon. Winters is expected to take the stand on Thursday.
In his interviews with police, Winters said that he followed the boy to the river while looking for money that he believed the boy’s brother had stolen. He said the boy then fell in the river and he jumped in after to save him. After successfully getting himself and the boy back to the riverbank, Winters said he fell asleep and never saw the boy again.