Cumberland Times-News

June 6, 2013

Trial begins for Oakland man, 52, in rape case

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— OAKLAND —  James Leroy House, 52, of Oakland, who is facing charges of first- and second-degree rape and assault as well as sodomy and numerous other charges, is innocent of an alleged incident that occurred in 2011, said Defense Attorney Kimberly Fitzwater in her opening statement during House’s criminal jury trial in Garrett County Circuit Court on Thursday.

“The evidence will convince you of one thing — that Mr. House is innocent,” said Fitzwater to 12 jurors. “This case is about credibility or lack of credibility.”

The alleged victim provided four different versions of the night in question and her story is riddled with inconsistencies, said Fitzwater.

The alleged victim told Sgt. Clark Warnick, investigating officer with the sheriff’s office, that she fought House 11 times.

Deputies on the scene observed House naked along with a naked, distressed woman, said Garrett County State’s Attorney Lisa Thayer Welch in her opening statement.

Sgt. Brent Sanders and Deputy Jamie Friend heard sounds of distress in House’s trailer before they proceeded to kick in the door and observed House and the alleged victim.

The alleged victim had known House for a year and was involved with him sexually, according to Welch, who added that, during the night in question, the alleged victim was recovering from a medical procedure.

Heather Cooper, an expert medical witness, was ready to testify that the alleged victim had injuries to various parts of her body, according to Welch.

But Fitzwater claimed that those marks can be explained by the alleged victim’s medical condition — diabetes and restless leg syndrome.

Warnick, who took nude photos of House, was ready to testify that House didn’t have a mark on his body, said Fitzwater.

A rope to be submitted as evidence was used to tie up the alleged victim at different times, according to Welch.

The knot of the rope contained both House’s and the alleged victim’s DNA, according to Fitzwater.

The Garrett County 911 Center received a phone call at 1:39 a.m. on Oct. 18, 2011, and the call was disconnected before the exact location could be determined.

Deputies were dispatched to Swanton and found nothing, according to the testimony of Ken Collins, dispatcher for the 911 center.

Collins tried to contact the alleged victim about 10 times and notified Jack Michaels with the sheriff’s office dispatch of the situation.

Michaels then tried multiple times to call the alleged victim back before reaching her. In one phone call she can be heard yelling and saying, “I’m fighting for my life,” said Welch.

Michaels was finally able to get in touch with her.

In the recording of the phone call, the alleged victim can be heard asking how Michaels got her phone number and Michaels can be heard asking her multiple times for her address, which she eventually provided.

Deputies were then dispatched to Mayhew Inn Road. The alleged victim told police she was tied up and sexually assaulted by House. She was then taken to Garrett Memorial Hospital by police for treatment of her injuries suffered in the attack, according to police.

House is being held in the Garrett County Detention Center and was originally held without bond, which was then reduced to $250,000.

The trial is scheduled to continue Friday.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.