Seattle, WA – Yesterday I reported on a South Carolina man who was found guilty of impregnating his 13-year-old daughter and will only serve one year behind bars. Now we have a story out of Washington in which a man confessed to repeatedly molesting his 2-year-old daughter and a judge let him walk free.
Jason Sherwood was indicted on child molestation charges in 2011 after he confessed to molesting his 2-year-old daughter on multiple occasions. The tapes were made years after the abuse when Jason and his wife, Susan, decided to start taping their conversations as they went through a divorce. ”We would talk and I was very confused, and I think he was dealing with a lot of denial so we started using the tape recorder. We started taping our conversations,” Susan said.
In these taped conversations, you can hear Jason admit to his wife that he molested their daughter. Susan asks, “How many times did you take her out of the bath and masturbate while she was sitting naked on your lap?” Jason answers, “Oh you know Sue, I don’t remember, but it was probably between five to 10 times.”
Jason goes into more detail later in the tape. “So when she was in the bath tub, giving her a bath, I’d touch her and, you know, kneeling down there next to the bath I’d masturbate,” Jason say. Susan asks, ”Were you stimulating her?” Jason then can be heard admitting that he was.
Because of these tapes, King County prosecutors felt they had enough evidence to convict Jason on charges of first degree child molestation. But Superior Court Judge Beth Andrus decided that the confession wasn’t enough and after a short bench trial this year, Jason walked out of the courtroom a free man. “It does seem odd that when a man confesses to molesting his child, a court might not find him guilty of such a heinous crime,” Judge Andrus said about her decision to throw out the case. She goes on to say that she had no choice, as without more proof that a crime actually occurred, her hands were tied.
“We thought we had sufficient evidence to corroborate what Mr. Sherwood said,” said Rich Anderson, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County. “In this case, the judge didn’t agree.” Susan feels prosecutors mishandled the case.
In court she testified about her daughter’s doctor visit at the time of the abuse. The doctor made note of a rash, wrote a prescription to treat an infection, and even asked if the girl was being sexually abused. Susan says prosecutors should have introduced that doctor’s report as independent evidence of the abuse, something prosecutors did not do. Prosecutors defended their decision not to pull the report, saying that doing so would have been “overkill,” especially since no one was contesting the Susan’s testimony regarding the doctor visit or the doctor’s observations.
While he feels they did nothng wrong, Anderson did admit that this case highlights the need for thorough investigations.
“It does highlight the need for investigations in general involving nonverbal children to really leave no stone unturned and go for every possible corroborating circumstance that might help support the defendant’s confession,” Anderson said. “There’s a natural instinct when someone confesses to a crime to say, that’s what we need, he says he did it. But in order to overcome the hurdle of the corpus delicti rule (body of evidence) you have to have that independent evidence. I would just consider it a reminder to investigators that they really have to go the extra mile when the child can’t say what happened.”
The victim in this story, Bella, is now 12-years-old and has asked that the media use her name because she has done nothing wrong and is not ashamed of what happened to her. She says that her father has apologized for what he did, but that she wants nothing more to do with him. If you read the comments attached to the article I linked to, you’ll see allegations that Bella was not Jason’s only victim.Tags: Child Molestation, Jason Sherwood, Pedophile, Washington