Friday, May 21, 2010

Hagins trial opens with vivid retelling of tale of break-in, attack, confrontation

The sneak-in sex assault trial of suspect Marcus Charles Hagins opened in Yuba County Superior Court Thursday with vivid testimony from the victim and her mother, whose quick thinking kept an ugly situation from getting worse.

Hagins, 19, of Elverta is accused of furtively gaining entry to the Plumas Lake home of a high school friend during the wee small hours of a mid-May morning and trussing her up with tape and a ball gag in an apparent attempt to have sex with her.

But noisy dogs and muffled sounds coming from her daughter’s adjacent bedroom awakened her. It was about was about 4 a.m., the mother testified.

She went to check on her daughter's situation, the mother said.

As she approached the girl’s bedroom, “I saw a light under the door” and cautiously opened the door, the mother told the jury of nine women and three men.

She saw a tall, hooded figure looming over her daughter who seemed to be lying oddly on the bed.

“Something was wrong,” the mother said.

The mother announced she wasn’t armed, which apparently halted the assailant.

Not wanting to get trapped in the bedroom with the girl, the mother ran instead to a nearby phone and called 9-1-1.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer R. Dupré-Tokos played the recorded conversation.

“There is someone in my house. Please come now!” the distraught and breathless mother told the dispatcher.

Events were quickly unfolding, combined testimony revealed.

The mother went out the front door to get better telephone reception, but then worried the assailant might lock her out. So she went back to also unlock the two windows beside the tract home’s front door.

She went back outside to keep the cops on the line.

Second witness, the 20-year-old victim of the attack, described the events as she experienced them.

She suddenly awoke that morning as someone in a black “hoodie” and red handkerchief mask wrapped duct tape over her mouth and eyes, the daughter testified, with a counselor from the county’s victim-witness programs sitting close by.

The assailant had a 10-inch knife and warned her: if she resisted, “I’ll slit your fucking throat … I’ll kill everyone in the house.”

He removed the tape from the mouth and inserted a brightly stripped ball gag in her mouth which was secured by a rubber band around the back of her head.

Her attacker told her to roll over on her stomach. He put down the knife while he continued to truss her up, taping her hands behind her and her feet loosely together.

Someone in this process, the daughter managed to partially hide the knife under her, the victim testified.

Then the mother came and things got even more confusing. The assailant was having trouble located the knife. He found it, but left the room and apparently ran out of the house. That’s when the mother spotted him again. She went after him, phone in hand cops still on the line.

The attacker then turned around and made what can only be described as singularly a weird gesture.

He grimaced at the mother. Clenching his fists, jerking his elbows back, jutting out his chest and baring his teeth as he growled, the mother said.

Growled? Dupré-Tokos asked.

Yes, growled, the mother said, and demonstrated it for the jury: “Grrrrr!”

The assailant then ran to a white car parked in the dark nearby, leaped in and drove off, shooting through a stop sign and away.

While that was going on outside the house, inside the house, the victim had her own struggle going on.

Still gag-balled and bound, hand and foot, she managed to get up out of the bed and hobble to the kitchen, all the while freeing herself of the duct tape bindings. In the kitchen, she got a knife and cut away the ball gag.

By then the mother was with her again. She gave the girl the phone so she could speak to the sheriff’s dispatcher.

In this same time frame, neighbor Patricia Sanchez, was returning home from work. She noticed the strange car parked where cars were not usually found, Sanchez testified.

Moments later she heard a car screech away at a high speed, and the white car was gone.

Deputy Matthew Brown reported arriving at the scene at 4:18 a.m. to check on the safety of the victims and secure the area until investigators arrived.

That means this whole frightening drama took place in the space of 15 to 20 minutes, tops.

The girl testified that – while she was clearly terrified by the whole horrible event – she had not beaten, not cut by the knife and not raped.

As a result of those 15-or-so minutes and what transpired during them the Yuba County District Attorney and sheriff’s department have compiled five felony counts against Hagins, ranging from assault with intent to rape to burglary to weapons charges.

Hagins’ attorney Michael G. Bowman of Sacramento reserved his opening statement.

During the forceful testimony by the mother and daughter and the supporting testimony from Sheriff’s Department crime scene investigator Jennifer Mervine, Hagins remained quiet and downcast.

In afternoon testimony more details emerged about how the suspect and the victim knew each other and how the Hagins and the victim's family sometimes met.

More details about that and how investigators’ interest came to focus on Hagins will be discussed in greater detail in a subsequent story later today.

The trial resumes this morning with Judge Kathleen R. O’Connor presiding and CSO Mervine back on the stand.

Tom Nadeau


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