Waynesburg rape trial continues

December 18, 2012

WAYNESBURG – The jury trial of a Waynesburg man accused of raping a 13-year old Morris Township girl July 15, 2011, will continue today at 12:30 p.m. in the Greene County Courthouse.

Charles Edward Cumberledge, 19, of 735 Race St. was held for trial after an April 11 preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Glenn Bates. Cumberledge was charged with rape, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault.

The alleged victim told police she was playing video games with her younger brother when Cumberledge, their baby sitter, called for her to come to an upstairs bedroom. She said she believed he wanted her to bring him a phone but after she entered the room, he pushed her down and raped her.

The younger brother of the girl said he went upstairs to check on his sister and, after looking through a hole in the door to the room, saw Cumberledge on top of her while she was kicking and hitting him. The boy said he entered the room, flipped the lights on and off, ran downstairs and locked himself into a bathroom. It was at this point the alleged assault stopped and Cumberledge left the room, according to the girl.

Trooper Daniel Barnhart of the state police criminal investigation unit said he spoke with Cumberledge at his residence March 13. Barnhart took over the case when the original investigator, Cpl. Mark Schmelzlen, was promoted and transferred to the Washington barracks. Barnhart said Cumberledge told him he had not been at the girl’s residence since spring 2011 and denied ever having any type of sexual contact with her. He confirmed he had baby-sat for the girl in the past but always with someone else there, such as her brother, Barnhart said.

When asked why she might accuse him of such a thing, Barnhart testified Cumberledge told him he had once told on her for not doing her chores or cleaning her room when he was at her house. Barnhart said Cumberledge had difficulty remembering some details of summer 2011, including the names of two girls he said he was dating. Barnhart testified Cumberledge indicated he had memory issues related to being struck in the head by a tree branch.

“He said he tries to block things out that he doesn’t want to think about,” Barnhart said. Cumberledge’s defense attorney Harry Cancelmi told Barnhart he didn’t think that “sounded that unusual.”

A registered nurse from Washington Hospital who examined the girl Sept. 9, 2011, testified there was no visible or physical evidence of the rape at that point and tests for sexually transmitted diseases were negative. She told Cancelmi that statistically, 95 percent of children who are sexually assaulted have completely normal exams and she could not determine if the girl had or had not been sexually assaulted based on her examination. She added it was the responsibility of the police to determine if an assault has occurred. There was some confusion as to a trip the girl made in the accompaniment of her stepmother to Southwest Regional Medical Center prior to the exam in Washington. The nurse testifiedthat she did not have knowledge of the visit to SWRMC but knows they do not examine children in cases such as this.

The day ended with the prosecution resting its case. The most serious charge of rape, a first-degree felony, holds a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine if Cumberledge is convicted. He has been held in the Greene County Prison on straight cash bail of $30,000 since his arrest. Judge Farley Toothman is presiding over the trial.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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