NEWPORT — The fate of accused child molester Alan Wirkkala is now in the hands of a jury after two days of witness testimony in Sullivan County Superior Court.
Defense attorney Benjamin St. Pierre told the 14-member jury Wednesday there was insufficient evidence to convict Wirkkala of the crimes he is accused of committing.
“This is just a story. It’s a work of fiction,” St. Pierre said in his closing argument. “Just because someone says something, doesn’t make it true.”
Wirkkala, 51, of Newport, was facing grand jury indictments on four counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and three counts of felonious sexual assault.
The alleged offenses took place between 1985 and 1987, and between 1987 and 1991 at various locations in Claremont when the alleged victim was between 5 and 8 years old, and later, when she was 12.
Following defense motions, Judge Brian Tucker dismissed all three felony sexual assault charges based on language discrepancies in the manner of alleged sexual penetration used by the defendant as described in the indictments.
Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway, in his closing argument, alluded to the “evil hand of deceit” by defense attorneys St. Pierre and Constantine Hutchins III in an attempt to present a case of false accusation.
“This is not something (the alleged victim) made up for reasons that do not exist,” Hathaway said. “The defense wants you to believe that this young lady was alright with [Wirkkala], that there was nothing going on.“
Outside of trial proceedings, Hathaway noted that sexual assault cases that are many years old often are difficult to prosecute—in part, given the time lapse and lack of physical evidence.
He said the weight of the evidence presented in this case depended mostly on the credibility of witness testimony.
“The challenge is to take all the evidence in this case and draw all the reasonable conclusions,” Hathaway told the jury of seven men and seven women.
Prior to closing arguments, the jury heard brief testimony from state’s expert witness Dr. Ronald Green, a staff psychiatrist at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover.
Green testified that he saw the alleged victim professionally in February 2011, and during that session she disclosed prior sexual abuse by Wirkkala.
He described sexual abuse as the “worst kind of betrayal” that can leave a “negative emotional legacy that can stay with you a long time.”
In previous testimony, Lynn Hayward, a state licensed mental health counsel in private practice in Claremont, said that in treatment sessions with the alleged victim in 2011 it was revealed that she had been a victim of sexual abuse.
At the time the alleged victim had been seeking help because of her failing marriage due to post traumatic stress after years of alleged sexual abuse, Hathaway testified.
Arnie Wirkkala Jr., the defendant’s brother, and Martha Wirkkala, the defendant’s former wife of 13 years, also testified as to cordial relations that existed between Alan Wirkkala and the alleged victim.
On Wednesday, the state called the alleged victim, now 40, back onto the witness stand, where she testified to a confrontation that occurred between her and the defendant on Pleasant Street in Claremont in May 2011.
She said that she began shouting, “Hey, pedophile,” at Wirkkala, just as he drove past her in order to get him to pull over.
“I told him apologies go a long way,” she said, to which Wirkkala allegedly responded, “I am sorry for whatever you think I did to you.”
The alleged victim said she then threw the contents of a Slushy in Wirkkala’s face.
Claremont Police Capt. Alex Lee testified Wednesday that he interviewed Wirkkala about the thrown drink on Sept. 15, 2018.
In closing arguments, St. Pierre called into question prior testimony of the alleged victim and her cousin, who both testified Tuesday Wirkkala had molested the alleged victim at a Thanksgiving family gathering in Claremont.
The cousin came forward with accusations of sexual assault in late 2018 since the 40-year statute of limitations was due to run out in 2019.
Wirkkala also is accused of sexually assaulting and physically injuring the alleged victim at another family residence, and at Veterans Park in Claremont.
At 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, state and defense attorneys had rested their cases, and the jury began deliberating.
Deliberations are set to continue today starting at 9 a.m.