Cousin of alleged kidnapper: You molested my child!

Christina Regusters
Christina Regusters
Posted: September 05, 2014

Confronted by a cousin who accused her of groping her 9-year-old daughter, alleged kidnapper Christina Regusters aborted Wednesday's trial session in an emotional outburst.

"I never touched your child!" screamed Regusters, 21, in front of a surprised Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury.

"That's enough!" interjected Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart as Regusters' lawyer and sheriff's deputies tried to calm her.

"She's lying," Regusters sobbed as she was led from court.

Defense lawyer W. Fred Harrison Jr. told Minehart that he hoped to finish questioning Regusters' cousin by the day's end. But a half-hour later, the judge called it quits.

Harrison will continue questioning Regusters' cousin when the trial resumes Thursday.

The emotional end of Wednesday's trial session capped a day in which Minehart, during an earlier suppression hearing without the jury present, barred prosecutors from using a statement Regusters gave detectives on Feb. 14, 2013, the night she was charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl allegedly abducted a month earlier from Bryant Elementary in West Philadelphia.

Harrison moved to suppress the statement after Regusters testified - and two detectives acknowledged - that she was not properly advised of her right to have a lawyer present during questioning.

Regusters, who testified for the first time, was on the witness stand about 20 minutes. Speaking softly in an almost childlike voice, Regusters described the night of Feb. 14, 2013, when detectives brought her in to the Special Victims Unit for questioning along with her aunt, Valerie Williams, and her aunt's boyfriend, Rudy McGlone. All lived in Williams' house at 6243 Walton Ave. in West Philadelphia, where the 5-year-old was allegedly held and sexually assaulted.

The hearing ended with the judge barring prosecutors from using Regusters' statement as evidence. If Regusters testifies in her defense, however, prosecutors may use the statement as rebuttal.

The cousin's testimony has not resulted in charges against Regusters. Her now 11-year-old daughter preceded her on the witness stand and told of three time when, she said, Regusters groped her.

Instead, Assistant District Attorneys Erin O'Brien and Jessalyn Gillum are using the cousins' testimony to try to show a pattern of similar conduct by the former day-care center worker.

Regusters' outburst came as Harrison questioned why the cousin did not come forward with the allegation until Aug. 19 - four days before trial.

"Did you ever have an inkling that something like that happening in your household?" Harrison asked the cousin, referring to the alleged groping of her daughter.

"Honestly, I didn't," the cousin replied.

Regusters, who had been weeping quietly, head in her arms on the defense table, erupted. Her cousin dissolved in tears.

On Jan. 14, 2013, the 5-year-old victim was taken from her classroom at Bryant Elementary by a woman in Muslim garb. She was found early the next morning, half-naked, in an Upper Darby playground. Her injuries from a sexual assault were so severe that they required surgery.

Through the young victim's fragmented memories and other tips, detectives were led to Regusters, then a teacher's assistant in an after-school program across from Bryant, at 5001 Cedar Ave., that the 5-year-old kindergartner attended.

Regusters told Minehart that, though she and her aunt, Williams, were then represented by Harrison, detectives never gave her a Miranda warning, spelling out the Fifth Amendment right not to talk to police without a lawyer.

Detectives gave conflicting testimony about the Regusters interview.

The lead detective, Daniel O'Malley, said he and a partner asked preliminary questions about Regusters' background without a Miranda warning.

But when Regusters interjected that she would "tell me anything or everything to keep her aunt from getting in trouble," O'Malley testified, he stopped the interview.

"I told her we want the truth," O'Malley told the judge. "We left the room and told her to think about it for a few minutes."

Unknown to O'Malley, another detective, Patrick Smith, subsequently went in and questioned Regusters.

Smith testified that he saw the opened interview file on the computer and assumed O'Malley gave Regusters her Fifth Amendment rights.

Smith said he questioned Regusters for an hour and took a statement and said she never asked him for a lawyer.

Regusters said she remembered nothing of the interrogation and had blacked out.

"I believe I just wanted to get it over with so I just said whatever," Regusters told the judge.


jslobodzian@phillynews.com

215-854-2985 @joeslobo

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