WILMINGTON — The trial for convicted sex offender Douglas Nelson Edwards began this morning in New Hanover County Superior Court, with opening statements heard from both the state and defense.
Edwards, 47, is charged with kidnapping a then 6-year-old girl from her Monkey Junction home last September. Edwards made off with the child in broad daylight, taking her to a secluded area off River Road.
There, he chained her up by the neck, allegedly sexually assaulting her and then leaving her for “dead,” according to Assistant District Attorney Lance Oehrlein.
Edwards is facing a number of charges, including first degree kidnapping, attempted first degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to inflict serious injury, statutory sexual offense with a child by an adult, two counts of indecent liberties with a child, statutory rape of a child by an adult, intimidating a witness, and obstruction of justice.
The victim will testify remotely throughout the trial in the company of her mother and service dog, despite the defenses early attempt to have her testify alone.
Edwards is a convicted sexual offender, having been previously convicted in 1994 for similar crimes against a child.
During the opening statements, state prosecutors asked the jury to consider what was perhaps “the worst day” in the family’s life.
“That man took (the victim) out into the middle of the woods, and chained her to a tree by her neck. Evidence is going to show that he was in those woods, alone, with (the victim), for 20 minutes,” Oehrlein said. “Why would an adult man abduct a 6-year-old little girl, take her into the woods, and chain her up. What was he doing with her in those 20 minutes?”
The prosecution then produced the chains the girl was tied with, describing her as having been “tethered,” and unable to move due to the “choke collar” around her neck.
“That chain wrapped around her neck not once, but twice. Like a choke collar,” Oehrlein. “Evidence is going to show that he was going to let her die on that tree, he wanted her to die.”
The defense followed, but rather than denying the charges, simply disputed some of the story.
“The state may not be able to prove all of what was said, but, we agree with much of what was said,” defense attorney Kenneth Hatcher. “My client is not disputing that he took (the victim). What he is denying is that he did not take her for sexual reasons, or to harm her.”
‘An emotional case’
Hatcher continued with his opening statements, asking that the jury carefully consider all the evidence, and not rush to judgement on what he predicted would be an “emotional case.”
Following the opening statements, the victims mother took the stand, describing — through a translator — the day the kidnapping occurred.
The mother said that around 4:45 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2016, she had taken her two young daughters outside to play, while her son did his homework inside.
Through tears, she described what happened next. She said that while she was outside with the girls, her son kept yelling for help with his homework. Eventually the mother said she went inside to help her son, leaving the door open for her daughters.
“When I sat down, I was looking at the homework with my son,” she said. “Then I heard (the daughter) yelling ‘Mommy! Mommy! A man is taking my sister.’ I ran outside, because I couldn’t believe this could be real.”
She said she asked her son to bring her a phone, then called 911 as she looked around the home for her daughter. The mother said her other daughter described a man on a motorcycle, and two neighbors confirmed to her that a man had in fact taken the 6-year-old.
The mother said these events changed her daughter. Before the incident, she was happy, “sharing and gracious.” Now, the young girl no longer wishes to go outside, according to her mother.
Following the mother’s testimony, Master Deputy Timothy Hudson with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office took the stand.
Hudson was one of two first responders on the scene. After interviewing the family and neighbors, he said they were able to paint a picture of the man, indicating he was on a moped, rather than a motorcycle.
The following day, officers were able to locate the young girl off River Road, less than two miles away from her home. Around the same time she was found, Edwards was arrested, admitting to authorities that he had taken the child.
In February, Edwards was charged once again, after a woman realized Edwards had worked as a contractor at her house while her young daughter was home. According to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, the woman claimed Edwards “touched” her daughter.
Port City Daily will continue to follow and update this case.