WILMINGTON — The trial of convicted sex offender Douglas Nelson Edwards continued into its fifth day Tuesday morning in New Hanover County Superior Court, with the prosecution for the state resting its case, and the defense beginning and ending its case as well.
The day would see Edwards, 47, called to the stand. He is charged with numerous crimes in relation to the kidnapping of a then 6-year-old girl from her Monkey Junction home last September.
Following her kidnapping, which Edwards has admitted to, he took her into a heavily wooded area off River Road, where she was chained to a tree, then allegedly sexually assaulted and “left for dead.” Edwards has denied the assault and an intention to harm the child.
The prosecution rests
The morning began with the prosecution calling two witnesses, including the now 7-year-old victim’s therapist, as well as the victim from Edwards original conviction, back in 1994.
The 1994 victim’s testimony established that Edwards did have premeditated criminal intent to harm his victims, and that his assault was not just a random act.
This witness, now 29, was molested at the age of 6 by Edwards, while he was subletting a room in her family’s small Wilmington apartment.
She described a series of events, occurring over the course of several months, where Edwards would take advantage of situations in which he was alone with the victim.
After months of fear, the then 6-year-old fought back, injuring Edwards and stopping the assault in the process.
“He had a conversation with me about how if I told anyone what happened, I would be in trouble, and he would be in trouble, and I didn’t want him to get in trouble, right?” the victim stated. “Because then he wouldn’t live with us anymore.”
But she told her mother, who alerted the authorities. The case that followed saw Edwards convicted of two counts of first degree sexual offense, sending him to prison for the next 20 years.
Following that testimony, the state rested its case, dropping the first degree rape charge due to a lack of evidence.
Edwards’ attorney moved to dismiss all charges. While the request was denied by Judge Phyllis Gorham, the defense persisted, aiming to have Gorham dimiss the charges of attempted first degree murder, as well as the charges of first degree sexual offense.
Those motions were also denied.
Edwards takes the stand
In a surprise move, the defense called Edwards to the stand when the trial resumed.
For the first time since the case began, Edwards showed life, speaking quickly and quietly with Defense Attorney Kenneth Hatcher.
Hatcher began by asking about Edwards’ childhood, painting a picture of a troubled past.
Speaking in a soft voice, Edwards described his childhood. His mother worked at a “topless bar,” where she was employed for 18 years.
“She provided for us as best she could, she had a lot of problems, a lot of drug problems,” Edwards said. He went on to describe his childhood in Cumberland County, and his relationship with his mother’s boyfriends.
“It was pretty violent most the time, I would either get beat up, or kicked out of the house, I was kicked out at age 12,” Edwards said. “When I was 8, my mother’s boyfriend started molesting me.”
“What was that about?” Hatcher asked.
“I don’t understand the question,” Edwards said. “He sexually assaulted me when I was a kid.”
According to Edwards, his family moved to New Hanover County when he was 20. He lived with his mother, aunt and brother off Oleander drive. Following his time in prison, Edwards lived in the Monkey Junction area, while his mother and aunt lived at Carolina Beach.
Edwards described how he would visit his mother, who was then bed ridden, every day after work, taking one of two routes, River Road or Carolina Beach Road, establishing his familiarity with the area.
The day of the abduction
On the day of the abduction, Sept. 14, 2016, Edwards said he went to work in the morning at Hanover Heights, where he stayed, not taking a lunch break. As a result, he said, he felt sick and asked to leave work early.
Edwards said he could not remember much about the the next few minutes, during which he took the victim from her front yard. He did not even remember getting on his moped to leave, he said.
“The next thing I remember, I was in the middle of neighborhood I’d never been in before, and there was a little girl on my moped,” Edwards said. “When I looked down, I seen little girl on moped, pulled onto the side of road in neighborhood. I couldn’t figure out why she was there. I couldn’t see anybody around, I started crying because I was confused.”
From there, Edwards recalled stopping, placing a helmet on the victim, before looking for a safe place to, “get rid of her.”
“When you say get rid of her,” Hatcher asked. “What do you mean?”
“Safely, get rid of her safely,” Edwards replied.
From there, he explained how he found a secluded place, away from police, and the road, to take her.
“I got off my moped, and decided to hide her,” Edwards said. “I didn’t want to leave her on side of the road. I decided to hide her. The only thing I could think of was to hide her in the woods.”
There, Edwards said he chained her to a tree, using his “moped chain,” and two separate locks secure her in place.
Edwards described chaining her up, “leaving her room to breathe,” but, laying her on the ground to “prevent her from getting tired,” where she could “gotten weak in the legs, and hung herself” from the chains.
Despite the victim’s testimony Monday, Edwards said he did not sexually abuse the girl, and only attempted to comfort her, in an effort to keep her from being more frightened than she already was.
“I chained her to the tree, she asked if I would bring her something to drink, I said I would, she asked if I’d take her to her mother, and I told her I would,” Edwards said. “Then I gave her a kiss on the forehead, to keep her from getting more scared than she already was, then I left.”
“You did not kiss her on the mouth?” Hatcher said, referring to testimony from the victim.
“No, I kissed her forehead, I did not kiss her on the mouth,” Edwards responded.
Edwards then recounted leaving the scene, becoming “turned around” on River Road, an area he had earlier stated he was familiar with.
Over the next few hours, he said he aimed to figure out a plan to release the victim without being caught, before his eventual arrest the following day.
Questions about his story
On cross examination, Assistant District Attorney Lance Oerhlein addressed Edwards description of events in relation to the evidence against him. That included multiple sightings of a man matching his description in the area in the weeks leading up to Sept. 14.
Edwards contradicted the testimonies from a number of state’s witnesses, including investigating officers, detectives, a firefighter who rescued the victim, his former and current victim, and others.
“So you’re saying, that everyone, including (the victim), are lying?” Oerhlein asked.
“She’s changed her statement multiple times,” Edwards said.
Closing arguments are expected to being Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.