WILMINGTON — The trial of convicted sex offender Douglas Nelson Edwards neared completion Wednesday morning as closing arguments were heard in New Hanover County Superior Court.
Edwards, 47, is charged with numerous crimes in relation to the kidnapping of a then 6-year-old girl last September.
He is accused of kidnapping the victim from her Monkey Junction driveway in the middle of the day, where she was playing with siblings.
Taking the stand on Tuesday, Edwards claimed that he did not recall the moments before of after taking the girl, only that he admits to suddenly realizing he was in a strange neighborhood “with a little girl” on his moped.
From there, allegedly lost, Edwards took her to a secluded area off River Road, where she could not be seen nor heard, and chained her to a tree. The prosecution then alleges he sexually assaulted her and left her for dead. Edwards denies he intended to harm the girl and that he did not assault her.
Charges include first degree kidnapping, attempted first degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to inflict serious injury, first degree sexual offense of a child by an adult, two counts of indecent liberties with a child, intimidating a witness, and obstruction of justice, all of to which he has plead not guilty.
The case for the defense
The defense, led by Attorney Kenneth Hatcher, did not dispute the fact that Edwards took his victim from her home. Instead, they focused on the charges of attempted first degree murder, and sexual assault.
In a surprise move yesterday, Hatcher called Edwards to the stand. Edwards described growing up in a broken home, with little education and a childhood filled with both physical, and sexual abuse.
“Take Mr.Edwards as you find him. He’s not a sophisticated guy, he came from the country, his family came from Sampson County,” Hatcher said. “He grew up in Fayettville, with a mother using drugs, who was a topless dancer, who dated all kinds of men. They abused him physically, sexually, he grew up in foster homes. So, he has very little education. Take that into consideration when you make your decision.”
The defense worked to establish a timeline of events, one that would have left little time for thought, premeditation, or sexual abuse to occur.
“There is evidence of what I would call and opportunistic crime, he just came upon it,” Hatcher told the jury. “He used chains from his scooter, which is terrible, by no means am I making an excuse for that. But, he used what he had in his scooter, and I think it challenges the states claim that this was premeditated, that he had intent to kill.”
Yesterday morning, the state dropped its charges of first degree rape due to lack of evidence. However, based on testimony provided by the victim, they did pursue with the charge of first degree sexual offense of a child, which the defense also wished the jury to scrutinize.
“I believe that that charge, comes from weeks of speaking with adults, and that this was the best solution to a result that the adults may have wanted,” Hatcher said.
He suggested that, despite the testimony of Colleen Mistovich, a specialist who treated the victim after she was rescued, there was no DNA, physical, or forensic evidence presented that Edwards had sexually assaulted the child.
“That same nurse said it (the victim’s internal injuries) could have come from (the victim’s) finger, there is no DNA evidence to suggest Mr Edwards touched (the victim),” Hatcher said. “She’s out there in the woods at night, she could have caused herself some injury. There’s no medical evidence to suggest he did it. He could have, based on allegations, but there is no forensic evidence to say so.”
Hatcher then appealed to the jury’s sense of duty as Americans.
“This is a serious case, but I am finished. Just to remind you, in a case that involves such emotions. My client 46 (47) years-old, and the victim six-years-old, that this decision comes to a jury of 12,” he said. “Twelve of you, from all walks of life. Do not make this decision from emotion, or anger, but rather what the evidence shows.”
The case for the prosecution
Assistant District Attorney Lance Oehrlein and District Attorney Ben David, put together a case attempting to refute inconsistencies made in defense of Edwards.
David began, by appealing to the jury’s sense of right and wrong.
“There is beauty in the world, we see that in the kindness of strangers, like when so many people responded to this amber alert,” David said. “But mostly, we see the beauty in the world through our children, and our grandchildren.
“Childhood is a magical time, it’s a time for dressing up, playing outside, playing make believe, when anything is possible and the world is full of wonder. The law recognizes that we owe a special duty to our children, to protect them, and severely punish those who do them wrong.”
Describing the events as a “horror story,” written by Edwards. The prosecution took aim at the testimony provided by the defendant Tuesday afternoon, as well as the original statements taken after his arrest, in an attempt to break down any “illusions” that may have been created by his defense.
David spoke not only to the severity of the crimes Edwards is charged with, but the intent, planning and malice involved.
“When that defendant went into woods, he brought his mom with him. She (the victim) didn’t have her mom, but he had is. What does that refer too? M O M: motive, opportunity, and means,” David said.
“He was not thinking about her well being, he was thinking about his,” he said. “What plan did he have? Maybe coming back? What plan? Is he going to let her live? Are they going to run away to some castle far away and live happily ever after in his shed with no plumbing? No.
“Experience is best teacher. Hes not going to let that child live, that’s not in his plans. And you know that after he talks to Detective Lisa Hudson,” David said. “He denies, denies, denies. What he’s doing at that point is not trying to preserve this child’s life, he’s trying to avoid a death sentence.”
Where the defense attempted to build a timeline of events that left no room for the accused sexual assault occur, David said that this was not the case. Edwards was in the woods with the victim seven to 10 minutes.
“That’s a life time, an absolute life time,” he said. “He could have done all these things (charges) five times. It doesn’t take 10 minutes to put a chain around her neck.”
Speaking to the language barrier (the victim speaks Spanish), and “coaching” claims by the defense, the prosecution had one thing to say — why would this child lie?
“Whats her reason? Does she get a gold star for a sex offense? Does her family want to get famous for this? No. There’s no motive here for her,” David said.
Finally, he thanked the jury for their time, asking them to aid the victim in move past these events.
“Will this be the last time she has to talk about it, I hope so,” David said. “But, the only way she’ll never have to talk about it again, is if he goes away forever, and that’s what I’m asking you to do.
Judge Phyllis Gorham released the jury until 2 p.m., when they will begin deliberations to come to a final verdict.