Platte County Judge Lee Hull is expected to rule later this week or early next week whether he will allow the video statements of two juvenile girls to be presented as evidence at the trial of a former Platte City businessman accused of sexually abusing the girls.
On Monday, at the Platte County Courthouse in Platte City, Hull heard arguments on the matter from the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office, which made the motion to include the statements, and from the attorneys of Daryl Lemasters, who faces several charges of felony statutory sodomy. Lemasters is set to be tried in front of a Platte County jury June 10.
“Generally, an out-of-court statement made to another person is considered hearsay and cannot be offered in court for the truth of the matter asserted,” Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said. “However, Missouri law contains an exception in certain violent or sex crime cases where the victim is under 14. In what is colloquially called a “491 hearing,” the state can ask the court to admit out-of-court statements made by victims under age 14. Those statements must be determined by the court to have a “sufficient indicia of reliability.”
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kalwei called to the stand two witnesses to support the state’s request. The first was Jill Hazell, of the Synergy Services Child Advocacy Center, who conducted the videotaped interviews with the two alleged victims Feb. 9, 2011. At the time, the two girls were 9- and 11-years-old, respectively.
Hazell said one interview lasted 51 minutes and the other 31 minutes, during which both alleged victims said Lemasters had touched them, kissed them and licked them multiple times in their “private areas.” Hazell also said the juveniles told her that they had slept in the same bed with Lemasters on numerous occasions, they had “skinny-dipped” with him in his swimming pool and that he had videotaped their “private areas.” Hazell also said that one of the girls told her that she had been sexually abused by another adult, a relative who was deceased at the time of the interview.
The second witness for the state was the girls’ mother (whom The Citizen will not identify to protect the identity of the two alleged victims). She said she first learned of the alleged sexual abuse when her daughters told her while they were driving to a family social event. She said that her daughters had spent a lot of time with Lemasters in recent years, “probably 150 to 180 days per year.” She said that when she found out “9-12 months” before the abuse allegations surfaced that her daughters were sleeping in the same bed with Lemasters.