Tahlequah Daily Press

January 24, 2014

Alleged victim of molestation takes stand in case against Roxie Wagers

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Jurors on Thursday heard emotional testimony from a teenager who claims family friend Roxie Lee Wagers – whom she once considered to be like a grandfather – began to treat her like a “sexual object” when she was about 6 years old.

During the first day of testimony in Wagers’ trial for lewd molestation, the alleged victim broke down into tears several times, frustrating Wagers’ defense attorney, Donn Baker.

Baker questioned the girl’s crying, telling the court she had testified during a preliminary hearing without tears.

“We’ve had to stop the proceedings two or three times,” Baker told District Judge Darrell Shepherd.

Baker told Shepherd he believed it was improper when Assistant District Attorney Joy Mohorovicic hugged the girl in front of jurors after her testimony concluded, and when Mohorovicic and victims’ advocate Diana Baker consoled the girl while she sat on the witness stand, sobbing.

The victim told jurors she first met Wagers, now 73, when she was 4.

When the girl’s parents were working, Wagers would allow her to stay with him at his property on State Highway 10. The girl said Wagers frequently took her to and from school; took her shopping; and took her to doctors’ appointments.

“He was just really nice,” she said.

She told jurors that Wagers exposed himself to her in 2006 while he committed a lewd act on himself. She claimed she was at Wagers’ home and had been playing with two other girls before Wagers did so.

Later, Wagers allegedly told the girl he had “put on a show” for her, and asked her to do the same for him.

Mohorovicic asked the girl why she didn’t tell anyone, and why she continued to spend time with Wagers.

“Sometimes he was really nice,” the girl replied. “It was fun to hang out over there. I thought maybe that he would stop some day. ... I knew if I told somebody, everything was going to get really crazy and bad. I knew that when I told [my father], he would be really upset. I didn’t want to hurt him – my dad or Roxie.”

The girl told jurors Wagers made more than 100 advances in the following years.

“He was like a grandpa; I loved him,” she said.

She didn’t realize “how bad it was” until she was older, she added.

A family friend tells the victim’s father

When the girl revealed the alleged molestation to her brother’s friend, who was living with her family in 2012, that man told her father what had happened.

On Sept. 30, 2012, after the girl had talked with her mother and father about the allegations, the family drove to Tahlequah so the victim could file a police report.

She told jurors the family encountered Wagers while driving on Downing Street, and Wagers began to encourage them to pull over. The family continued driving until they reached the Cherokee County Courthouse, and once there, Wagers confronted them.

The girl told jurors she recorded that conversation, without telling her parents or Wagers.

Eventually, Wagers left, and the family went into the police department.

Sheriff’s deputies took initial statements from the girl when police dispatchers referred the family to county officials. The following day, the case was passed on to Thomas Donnell, a Tahlequah detective who was working sex-related crimes.

Baker questioned the girl and suggested Wagers was a “go-to” guy for her family.

“He wasn’t a baby sitter, was he? He was like a family member?” Baker asked.

The mother of the alleged victim once worked for Wagers, and when she became a Realtor, she helped Wagers sell some of his property for more than $200,000, Baker suggested. Wagers had also loaned the girl’s mother money from time to time.

“You knew he had come into a lot of money?” Baker asked.

The girl admitted she did. According to Baker, that sale of property had been completed just a few weeks before the allegations against Wagers surfaced.

Baker suggested the girl’s mother, after learning of the allegations, “wasn’t sure what should be done” about it.

“You were very adamant that he needed to go to jail?” Baker asked the alleged victim.

The girl said she believed Wagers “needed to be stopped,” but agreed that her mother wasn’t sure that filing a police report was the best course of action.

Baker then began to ask about the relationship between the girl’s mother and Wagers.

“You want to see your mother and father be together?” Baker asked. “You wanted to get Roxie out of the picture, didn’t you? Isn’t it true your mother and Roxie had had an affair?”

The girl denied what Baker had suggested and began to cry.

“Would you agree every time you tell this story, it gets bigger?” Baker asked.

Baker later questioned the girl’s father on the stand.

“Wouldn’t it be a fair statement that they were having an affair for years?” Baker asked, speaking of the man’s wife and Wagers.

The girl’s father said he’d never heard of the supposed affair between his wife and Wagers.

“Do you remember a time you came to Roxie’s and pulled a shotgun on him?” Baker asked the girl’s father. “Accused him of having an affair?”

The girl’s father told Baker it “never happened.”

Jurors hear audio recording

Mohorovicic and Assistant District Attorney Jacob Howe produced an audio recording for jurors Thursday afternoon after Baker unsuccessfully sought to have the recording suppressed.

The father of the alleged victim told jurors he recorded the conversation with Wagers after he met with Donnell and was told it would “not be illegal.” He told jurors Donnell had not instructed him to make the recording, and he had instead done so on his own.

On the recording, Wagers tells the girl’s father he doesn’t want to hurt the family.

“I guess I’ve already done that, though,” Wagers says on the recording.

Wagers, during the recording, frets about his name being “smeared” if the allegations were made public

 He tells the girl’s father that he has spoken with Baker, who told him he needed $7,000 to get started on the case.

“I’d rather give you the $7,000 than Donnie Baker,” Wagers says in the recording.

Wagers suggested he would help get the alleged victim a car, or give her father Wagers’ own truck.

Wagers also told the man there was “much more” to the story – though he didn’t want to discuss the details, and asked to speak with the victim’s father face to face.

Baker asked why a recording doesn’t exist of a second call between Wagers and the victim’s father.

The man told Baker he doesn’t recall whether he recorded that conversation, but admitted Wagers denied, at that time, that he had ever committed the allegations.

Testimony is set to continue Friday.

jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com