'I wasn't going to leave her there': Douglas Edwards takes the stand during kidnapping, sexual assault trial
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Defense attorney Ken Hatcher called Douglas Edwards to testify in his New Hanover County trial on Tuesday. Edwards faces charges of attempted murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault.
He said on the stand that he doesn't remember taking a 6-year-old from the front yard of her home, but does recall chaining and locking her to a tree in the woods off of River Road.
Edwards said on Sept. 14, 2016, he worked all day doing construction at a home on Newkirk Avenue in Wilmington. He said that around 4:30 p.m., he asked his supervisor if he could go home, explaining that he didn't feel well and was exhausted.
He told the jury that it was the last thing he remembered.
"The next thing I remember is being in a neighborhood I had never been in before and there was a girl on my moped," Edwards said.
He said despite testimony from witnesses during the trial, he doesn't remember taking her.
"I was scared...It scared me that I had a kid on my moped and I didn't know where she came from," he said.
Edwards said that after getting lost, he ended up on River Road.
Edwards said he didn't know what to do with the little girl and said he didn't see any homes or gas stations nearby. He said that he carried her to the woods and chained her to a tree. He said he made sure she had room to breathe but didn't want her to be able to stand up for her own safety.
He said the child asked for water and asked if Edwards would take her to her mother. He told her that he would. He said that before he left, he kissed the girl on the forehead in an effort to calm her down.
According to the little girl's testimony, he kissed her on the mouth, sexually assaulted her using his hand, and pulled down his pants and asked her to perform a sex act. Edwards denies any of that happened and said he was with the victim less than 10 minutes.
Edwards said he left and headed toward his mother's home in Carolina Beach.
"I was going to try to figure out how to get out of the situation I was in," Edwards said.
He said at that point he was stopped by an officer who released him after a few minutes. He said that while he was at the home, he decided to return and let the girl go.
As he left, Edwards said he was stopped and detained again. At this time, he agreed to a voluntary interview with detectives. He asserts that had he not been stopped, he would have ended up leading investigators to where the little girl was chained. He explained that he knew he was being followed, so he did not immediately go to where he left her. Edwards claimed he would have brought her food and water, and intended to release her.
The defense asked Edwards about a letter he wrote in jail intended for the child's family. He became emotional while reading it to the jury, saying "I don't know why I did what I did...I ruined her life and mine...If I could change what happened, I would."
While cross-examining Edwards, Assistant District Attorney Lance Oehrlein asked why Edwards didn't leave the sweatshirt he had in his moped with the child in the woods for warmth, but chained her to keep her safe. Edwards replied that the police may have seen him.
Edwards also said in his testimony that he was abused by his mother's boyfriends as a child, and was sexually assaulted by his neighbor. He said that his mother had drug problems and that he was raised around drugs and partying.
Jurors in the Edwards trial also heard from a 29-year-old woman Tuesday morning who was sexually assaulted by Edwards in October 1994. The witness said she was 6 years old at the time of the assault and Edwards was subleasing a room in her family's apartment.
On the stand, the victim in the 1994 case told jurors that Edwards made several attempts to isolate her. She said that he would put her on his lap and put his hand down her pants, saying that Edwards called it a game.
The witness recalled a day when she was left with Edwards by her mother. She said that Edwards put her on the bed and attempted to escalate the nature of the assault.
She said she told him she needed to use the bathroom to get away, adding Edwards broke into the bathroom to get to her. The witness said she fought back and kicked Edwards in his lip.
She said she told her mother and eventually testified in court. The defense had no questions for the 29-year-old.
Her testimony was corroborated with the deputy clerk in New Hanover County at the time of the trial, Jennifer Wittenburg.
Elizabeth Uzcategui, a therapist at Coastal Horizon's Clinica Latina, took the stand Tuesday morning and explained that she provided treatment for the girl in September 2016. She said based on her assessment, the child had no prior mental health issues
Uzcategui said that during their sessions the child was very shy, would laugh hysterically when she asked what happened, and would hide under office chairs occasionally.
The victim's mother told Uzcategui that her daughter acted very shy around strange men, and that she was consistently afraid her siblings would be abducted.
The state dropped the statutory rape charge against Edwards based on evidence given throughout the trial. The jury is expected to deliberate on the following charges:
- Attempted first-degree murder
- First-degree kidnapping
- Two counts of taking indecent liberties with children
- Statutory sexual offense with a child by an adult
- Assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury
- Felony intimidating a witness
- Felony obstruction of justice
Prosecutors assert that the assault with a deadly weapon resulted in mental injury to the child rather than serious bodily harm.
Closing arguments will begin Wednesday morning at 9:30 am.
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