Saturday March 9, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- A jury will begin deliberations Monday in the Berkshire Superior Court trial of a 72-year-old retired boat builder from North Dartmouth accused of molesting a 24-year-old woman who has the mental abilities of a child. Closing arguments in the trial ended Friday.

Richard St. Louis is facing five counts of indecent assault and battery on a person with intellectual disabilities, indecent exposure and accosting a person of the opposite sex. He was originally facing a total of 15 charges, but following the end of the prosecution’s case, the most serious charges -- two counts of rape -- were dismissed, along with six other charges.

St. Louis adamantly denies anything ever happened between him and the woman who he considered like a granddaughter.

According to Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Marianne Shelvey, over the course of three years, from Jan. 1, 2008, to Sept. 16, 2011, St. Louis had inappropriate sexual contact with the woman. Shelvey said the woman has the problem-solving skills of a 4-year-old.

The alleged abuse occurred at a residence in Hancock where St. Louis would go to hunt. He was friends with the woman’s grandfather, Shelvey said.

The abuse came to light, said the prosecutor, after the alleged victim’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend saw the woman touching St. Louis’ groin area. Afterward, the woman told her mother about the ongoing abuse, said Shelvey.

"It didn’t happen. Absolutely not," said St. Louis, who took the stand in his own defense.

The father of four who has been married for more than 50 years broke down several times during his testimony.

St. Louis told the jury the woman was pulling on the top of his knee brace that extended to within about four inches of his groin area. He said she was imitating something she had seen him doing as he was often having to adjust the brace. He denied having any inappropriate contact with the woman.

The alleged victim also took the stand. Her emotional testimony was marked by long pauses, lapses of memory and frequent crying that sometimes required the court to take breaks. She clearly stated she knew the difference between the truth and lying and that St. Louis had "touched my private parts."

Shelvey told the jury that the woman testified "to the best of her limited ability" and "never changed her story."

Plymouth-based attorney Jack M. Atwood, representing St. Louis, told the jury that the alleged victim was manipulated by her mother into lying, that the mother and her boyfriend couldn’t have seen what they alleged from where they had been standing, and that the jury needed to "eliminate sympathy" for the alleged victim in order to clearly look at the facts.

The jury will begin deliberating the case on Monday. Meanwhile, St. Louis remains free on personal recognizance.

To reach Andrew Amelinckx:
aamelinckx@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6249.
On Twitter: @BE_TheAmelinckx