By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
Caution: The following news story about the testimony of an alleged teenage rape victim contains passages that are graphic and not suitable reading for all audiences.
CHEHALIS – When the teenage girl from Pe Ell spoke yesterday in court about the day last summer when the 51-year-old man she knew as a softball coach and mentor allegedly had sex with her against her wishes, the prosecutor asked her: Why didn’t you leave?
Todd D. Phelps
The now-17-year-old and the defendant Todd Phelps had been kissing on a couch after she pulled her pants partway down to show him the cuts she’d made on her upper thighs – because he’d asked – and he suddenly pulled off her pants and subsequently her panties, she testified.
“He asked if we were gonna have sex, I shrugged my shoulders,” she had just told Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead. “He asked me to follow him in the bedroom.”
Phelps had grabbed a towel and her pants and carried them with him, she told Halstead. She stayed on the couch for three or four minutes, she said.
“I’m thinking in my head I want to leave,” the girl testified. “But I can’t, because my pants aren’t there.
“I also didn’t want to hurt him, I didn’t want him to think I didn’t appreciate him, respect him.”
She went to the doorway of the bedroom, she said.
A jury of six women and six men are hearing the case in Lewis County Superior Court that began on Tuesday and will continue into next week.
Phelps is charged with third-degree rape as well as second-degree sexual misconduct with a minor in connection with encounters last spring and summer with the high school student.
The prosecution is arguing Phelps is a man who gradually seduced a girl already troubled with low self esteem and depression. She has testified she’d never even been kissed before the startling kiss from her coach.
The allegation regarding the rape charge is her lack of consent was clearly expressed by her words or conduct, according to charging documents.
Defense attorney Don Blair in his opening statements spoke of a coach who became close to the girl because he was worried when he learned she was cutting on herself and thought she might even commit suicide.
Blair has told the jury he doesn’t know why she is saying these things about his client and Phelps at no time thought the relationship was inappropriate.
When the teenager took the witness stand on Thursday afternoon, she spoke of “the kiss” and texting that led to the suspension and end of the assistant fast pitch coach’s job.
On Friday morning, when her testimony continued with questions from the prosecution, she spoke of mid-April of last year as rumors and taunting at school followed Phelps’ suspension.
“Did you love him?” Halstead asked.
“Yes, as a “father”, as a mentor, as a, not a romantic love,” she said.
She had already testified she was angry at her parents, and at the youth pastor’s wife who broke her confidence and told the school about the kiss that ‘freaked her out.” She indicated she felt her coach was the only one she could still confide in.
Days later, however, Phelps and his wife met with her parents, she thought because he wanted to straighten things out so he could continue to coach, she testified.
Instead, he told them all her “secrets” like about her cutting, trying drugs, sneaking out and things she’d confided to him about a friend and rape, and about other friend and suicide, she told Halstead.
Phelps had told the school district superintendent the kiss was on her forehead and the texting would stop, that he was only trying to help the teen.
After the meeting, her father and Phelps appealed to the school, successfully, not to let him go.
At the next softball practice, she still was very angry at her coach, but he spoke to her in the dugout, she testified.
Phelps told her he’d been married twice and never loved anyone as much as her, the girl told Halstead under questioning.
“How does that make you feel?” the deputy prosecutor asked.
“I’m like flattered, at the same time scared, but not too scared,” she answered.
About a week later, she was caught in class texting with her coach, she testified. He was forced to quit.
She was upset, feeling like the team – which had taken the state championship the year before – would crumble and she would be blamed, she testified.
Under questioning, the girl described how for the next three months the two continued to communicate using her friends’ phones and also when she gave him the password to her email account, so he could use it to send messages to her on it.
“What did you think the relationship was?” Halstead asked her.
“I was really confused cause I didn’t know if it was like a romantic love, or coach,” she said. “I wanted it to be just friends.”
Halstead drew from her the content of some of the communications, that she had already told to a detective.
Her coach sent her a song called “Sex” and told her there were rumors they were doing it, and he wished it were true, she testified.
Phelps continued to talk about sex, saying things like orgasms fix migraines and how he would be gentle with her, she testified.
She testified Phelps told her the age of consent was 16, but she would be worth going to jail for.
“When he was saying all this stuff, I was trying to come up with ways to say no without hurting his feelings,” she said.
He told her to meet him one day last July to meet him at his brother’s house in Pe Ell, she testified. She walked there.
“I was like scared my parents would find out,” she testified.
Phelps asked if she was nervous, she told Halstead. “I said a little bit,” she said.
He held her hand, gave her a hug, she said.
They sat on a couch.
“He asked about cutting, he asked if I was going to show him,” she said.
He unbuttoned her pants, she stood up, he pulled her towards him and looked at them, felt them, she said.
“He says, I can’t believe you’re doing this to yourself,” she said.
“He says, why don’t you take these off,” she said. “I said no, I want to leave my pants on.”
The teenager testified Phelps pulled her pants down to her ankles, and then pulled her on top of him onto the couch.
“What happens next?” Halstead asked.
The girl said Phelps kissed her and she didn’t kiss him back. Then he kissed her more.
“I kissed him back a little,” she said.
She continued to testify: He put his hand down her panties, she pulled it out.
The second time he did it, he’s saying she should like it, she said. She pulled away, turned her face so he couldn’t kiss her and then sat up and got off of him, she said.
Phelps came her way and then laid her down on her back, she testified. He grabbed her panties and pulled them off, she said.
“I don’t think I said anything, but I covered up my private area,” she said.
He asks doesn’t she want him to see and she says no, she said.
“He says you can trust me,” she said. “So I’m like, trying to trust him.”
But instead, she said, he actually put his fingers inside of her and it hurt, she testified.
Warning number two: The story the girl told in court under oath may be troubling to readers. Any reader who doesn’t want to feel troubled, should stop reading. Read the rest of this entry »