Trial resumes in abduction of 5-year-old girl

Christina Regusters
Christina Regusters
Posted: September 04, 2014

Prosecutors on Tuesday continued buttressing the testimony of a 5-year-old girl abducted last year from her West Philadelphia elementary school and sexually assaulted.

The Common Pleas Court jury of eight women and four men spent most of the day watching two videotape interviews of the young victim conducted by Jackie Block Goldstein within days of her assault.

On trial for kidnapping and sexual assault is Christina Regusters, 21, who is accused of taking the girl from her kindergarten class at Bryant Elementary School at 8:50 a.m. Jan. 14, 2013. Regusters was working as a teacher assistant at a day-care center where the victim attended an after-school program. The center is across from the elementary school at 6001 Cedar Ave.

Goldstein is associate director of the Philadelphia Children's Alliance, which specializes in treating victims of child sexual abuse, including performing legally valid "forensic interviews" to elicit facts from victims without creating "false memories" through suggestion.

Goldstein gave the jury background about the two interviews with the victim: the first on Jan. 15, 2013, the day the victim was found half-naked in an Upper Darby playground, the second on Jan. 25, after the child had undergone surgery to repair injuries caused by the sexual assault.

In the first video, which lasted 70 minutes, the girl is just minutes out of the emergency room, unable to walk or sit and in obvious pain. Nevertheless, she was able to respond to questions.

Goldstein said she rarely interviews victims in the girl's condition. She said this time she made an exception for public safety: At that time the kidnapper was unknown and at large.

In the second video, done in two parts and running 21/2 hours, the child has recovered from colostomy surgery, and can sit and walk, but seems much more reticent.

In both videos, the girl recounted the story of how she was taken from her classroom at Bryant by a woman in full Muslim garb who said her name was Rashida.

The girl says she was taken to a strange house where she was assaulted by a man and taken the next day to an Upper Darby park by a teenager named China.

Prosecutors allege that all three persons were roles played by Regusters in an effort to confuse her young victim and mislead police.

The child said she was blindfolded her entire time in the house and never saw the man she believed assaulted her. The girl said that Rashida showed her a photo of the man on a cellphone and that China - Regusters' childhood nickname - was only present when the others were not.

The videos are important to the prosecution's case because when the girl testified last week she seemed unable to recall more than a few details about what happened.

The videos, an audio recording made by the girl's mother while she was hospitalized, and descriptions of the girl's words by her rescuers and police are consistent, contemporaneous corroboration of the allegations against Regusters.

Goldstein is also expected to testify about an interview she did with a young cousin of Regusters' who has alleged the accused groped her during the same time the girl was being held.

Regusters, of Silver Spring, Md., has claimed she is innocent, and her attorney has argued that other relatives living with Regusters in a West Philadelphia house could have kidnapped and assaulted the child.


jslobodzian@phillynews.com

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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