Much of the 75-year-old woman’s story had to be told through physical demonstration and pantomime, the officers testified, because the stroke and its resulting expressive aphasia drastically affected her ability to speak.
In interpreting her gestures, the officers said it was pretty clear she was telling them that sexual activity had taken place, and that in spite of her impairment, she was able to fashion a one-word answer when asked if she agreed to it.
“No,” she said, according to the investigators. Physical examinations then documented injuries that appeared to have been incurred during acts of sexual intercourse, which brought another word to the minds of investigators – rape.
Eventually, the investigation circled Sacramento police detectives back toward one of their own, Gary Dale Baker, 50, whose preliminary hearing began Monday in Superior Court on a 12-count complaint that he raped the woman who had suffered the stroke and been rendered aphasic.
The hearing is expected to resume and conclude on Thursday, when Judge Patrick Marlette must decide whether prosecutors have enough evidence to hold Baker – who has since been fired – over for trial.
A July 1 ruling by another judge, Cheryl Chun Meegan, that the alleged victim is incompetent to testify complicated the hearing. Based on Meegan’s ruling, defense attorney Linda Parisi challenged the reliability of the information police gleaned from the woman that was the basis of some of their Monday testimony.
Marlette took the objection under submission. He is likely to rule Thursday whether the woman’s mostly nonverbal account of what happened to her can come in through the officers’ hearsay testimony – normally allowable for the purpose of a preliminary hearing, but now in question in the Baker case in light of Meegan’s ruling.
Expressive aphasia is a condition that can result from severe brain trauma that hinders a person’s ability to speak or write, although the thought process remains normal. Advocacy groups say that with proper accommodations, aphasics can testify competently. The National Aphasia Association has since filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department over the judge’s ruling barring the woman’s testimony in the Baker case.
The alleged victim’s daughter-in-law first reported the case to police on Nov. 25, 2010, a day after the woman said she was attacked.
The lead detective, Joyce Thorgrimson, testified she and another investigator interviewed the alleged victim – identified only as “Jane Doe” – on Nov. 30, 2010.
“She was not able to communicate or have a normal conversation,” testified Thorgrimson, who has since left the Sacramento Police Department and is now an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office.
A resident of a senior-living complex in south Sacramento, the woman told authorities she first encountered a man she described as a “sheriff” or an “officer” earlier in the day when she was returning home, according to Thorgrimson’s testimony. She said the man told her he would be coming over to see her later in the afternoon.
“She indicated he knocked on the door, she opened it, and he came in,” Thorgrimson testified, under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Amy Holliday. “She said he began kissing her right away.”
Thorgrimson said the man at the door “touched her under her clothes and over her breasts,” got her onto a couch “and her took her lower clothing off.”
During the interview, the woman “was miming” what the intruder did to her, according to the investigator. Asked if she wanted to have sex with him, the woman said she told him, “Please, no,” Thorgrimson testified.
The detective said police talked to the woman again the next day and that “she responded well to visual cues” and was able to clarify her account. Investigators brought a laptop computer to enhance their communication with the woman.
“She was able to answer questions,” Thorgrimson testified.
Shown a calendar for November 2010, the woman pointed to the date of Nov. 24 when the attack allegedly occurred, and said, “He come here today,” Thorgrimson testified.
Thorgrimson said the woman “indicated that he opened the door and pushed his way into the apartment.”
“Then she started saying the word ‘off,’” Thorgrimson said. “She repeated that several times.”
When they asked her again if the sex was consensual, the detective testified, “She told him she was too old.”
Thorgrimson said the woman was able to pull an alarm in her apartment “and the suspect ran out the front door.”
According to the complaint against Baker, he returned to the woman’s apartment on Sept. 20, 2012, and attacked her again. A nurse practitioner who examined the woman “said Ms. Doe was having a difficult time explaining it, but she was demonstrating” what had taken place, Thorgrimson said.
The physical examination of the woman showed she suffered five separate assault-related injuries, the investigator testified.
Parisi, who began her cross-examination of Thorgrimson, is expected to conclude it on Thursday.