A local man pleaded not guilty on Tuesday afternoon to three felonies alleging he kidnapped a child from outside a south Casper apartment complex in order to sexually abuse her.
Joshua T. Hicks, 32, appeared for the arraignment in Natrona County District Court, where an audience of 18 watched him give his first formal and public response to the charges that could put him behind bars for life.
The charges stem from early July, when, prosecutors say, Hicks spotted the child playing outside. He put the girl, no older than 5, in his truck, where he sexually abused her, authorities say. Hicks then returned the girl to the area, law enforcement say. After she made a report of the alleged abduction, police reviewed security camera video footage and law enforcement spent 18 hours searching for a GMC pickup, which police now say belongs to Hicks.
After police caught up with Hicks early on Independence Day, he told a detective he spotted the girl playing outside, according to court documents filed by prosecutors in support of the charges. Hicks said he pulled her in his truck, where he masturbated and put the child’s hand on his genitals, according to the documents.
During Tuesday’s brief hearing, Hicks appeared wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and a chain around his waist.
While standing beside his defense attorney, Don Fuller, Hicks answered a series of procedural questions posed by Judge Catherine Wilking. The judge read the charges Hicks faces — a single count each of aggravated kidnapping, second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and third-degree sexual abuse of a minor — and Hicks responded in a rasp.
“Not guilty,” he said.
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District Attorney Dan Itzen looked over the upper rim of his glasses and up from the paperwork before him. Fuller and Itzen in succession declined to raise any other issues and the defense attorney walked with Hicks toward the rear of the courtroom. Fuller whispered an imperceptible phrase to Hicks.
Deputies led Hicks from the courtroom and toward jail, where he is being held on a $500,000 cash-only bail requirement, and Fuller walked toward the exit. Barring a plea agreement, the case will advance toward trial.
In court documents, prosecutors say Hicks has abused children before. Hicks, court documents state, told the detective in the post-arrest interview he has twice before masturbated in front of young children. He said he has also — unbeknownst to children — masturbated while watching young children playing in public.
Hicks’ record also indicates he had previously been suspected of a sexual crime, which was charged as a misdemeanor and later dismissed.
Documents filed in Natrona County Circuit Court state police arrested Hicks in September 2005 year on suspicion of masturbating in a parking lot of the Eastridge Mall. Officers arrested him at 7:30 on a Friday evening in the portion of the lot nearest the mall’s Target store, according to the filings. About three months after his arrest, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the charge, according to a note scribbled on a docket sheet from Dec. 14, 2005.
The circumstances of and reason for the dismissal were not made fully clear from circuit court records reviewed by the Star-Tribune. However, court records indicate he was convicted of two alcohol-related misdemeanors the same year. Records available Thursday did not indicate if prosecutors had arranged a plea agreement governing all three cases or if the dismissal came independent of the misdemeanor convictions.