Jury finds Waynesburg man guilty of rape

December 19, 2012

WAYNESBURG – A Greene County jury found a Waynesburg man guilty Wednesday of raping a 13-year old Morris Township girl last summer. Charles Edward Cumberledge III, 19, of 735 Race St., also was found guilty of sexual assault, statutory sexual assault and indecent assault.

The girl testified Cumberledge was baby-sitting her and her 11-year-old brother on the day the rape occurred in summer 2011. The girl said Cumberledge called to her and she believed he wanted her to bring him a phone. After she entered the room, she said Cumberledge pushed her down on the floor and raped her.

Her brother testified 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.

The girl said it was after her brother fled that Cumberledge stopped the assault and left the room.

Cumberledge denied being at the girl’s residence and said he had not been to the home since June 4, 2011, when a party was held there in honor of his graduation from high school.

The incident was reported to have occurred after June 4 and before the start of school later that summer.

Cumberledge told police he baby-sat the children in the past but only in the presence of another person, such as their older brother. When the investigating officer asked why the girl might accuse Cumberledge of the assault, he said he told on her once for not doing her chores.

Cumberledge took the stand in his own defense Wednesday stating succinctly he never entered a bedroom in the house in summer 2011, that he had not been in the girl’s residence since the graduation party and he had no contact with her after that time. When Cumberledge was asked if he had ever kissed the girl or touched her in any way, he said, “No, I did not.”

In his closing, defense attorney Harry Cancelmi called into question discrepancies in the details about the dates of the rape and its reporting, the game the children were playing while Cumberledge baby-sat and the color of the house phone. He told the jury they would need to decide who was telling the truth, the children or Cumberledge. Cancelmi reminded the jury of the sexual assault nurse who testified she could not say the rape had occurred but she could not rule it out either. Cancelmi said he couldn’t rule out that Dec. 21 will be the last day on Earth, as predicted by the Mayans, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

“If you are a juror, you have to not make the decision (to find him guilty) unless you can say there is no reason to doubt,” Cancelmi said.

Assistant District Attorney Brianna Vanata told the jury there may have been inconsistencies in dates and colors but when it came to the key facts of what occurred on that day, the children’s accounts were always the same. Vanata said it wasn’t surprising a child would be confused and frustrated after two hours of cross examination, especially one who had a stroke as an infant as the victim in this case had suffered.

“There is a difference between being mistaken and lying,” Vanata told the jury, asking them how reasonable it is to expect the children to remember dates after this amount of time. “The major facts of this case are the same.”

Cumberledge could receive a maximum sentence of more than 30 years and fines in excess of $30,000. Greene County Judge Farley Toothman remanded Cumberledge into the custody of the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, where he will remain until a presentencing investigation is conducted.

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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