The young girl who had told police that former Carroll County schools Superintendent William H. Hyde raped her took the witness stand yesterday and named him as her abuser.
In a quiet, sometimes-quavering voice and using childlike nicknames for body parts, the elementary school-age child described the night she awoke, she said, to find Hyde, partially undressed, hovering over her.
"He wasn't laying on top of me, but he was over me," she testified, going on to explain how she was sexually assaulted.
Hyde, 62, left the Carroll school system in August 2000 to take a superintendent's job in a Montana mountain town. He returned to Carroll County last summer for about 2 1/2 weeks for his divorce hearing, and he has been charged with raping and sexually abusing the girl between July 11 and July 12 last year at her family's home.
Yesterday, on the first day of what is expected to be a five-day trial in Carroll Circuit Court in Westminster, Hyde sat quietly, wiping his eyes several times with his fingers and mopping his brow with a handkerchief on other occasions. His face reddened often, particularly during some of the more emotional of the alleged victim's 2 1/2 hours of testimony.
Hyde waived his right to a jury trial. Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. will issue the verdict.
In an opening statement, one of Hyde's lawyers, Edward M. Ulsch did not dispute that the girl had been sexually abused.
The girl "is indeed a victim," Ulsch said. "But she's not a victim, without a reasonable doubt, of my client."
He summarized Hyde's 39-year career in education, from teaching and coaching for three years in Prince George's County to the string of administrative positions that took the Frostburg native from the State Department of Education to Carroll schools and then Seeley Lake, Mont.
"Nothing occurred that was untoward or out of the ordinary or illegal, nothing," Ulsch said. "There will be no evidence in this case that my client is a pedophile or some kind of deviant individual who would prey upon a child or individual. There has never been anything - no hint of that - even though he has been associated with schools his entire life."
Ulsch also criticized investigators' tactics in the case, from the "denigrating" police interrogation of Hyde during which investigators "dragged out" a letter of apology to the child to the "flawed" and too numerous interviews of the alleged victim.
Defense attorney Kathi Hill zeroed in on those interviews during cross-examination of the girl.
Leading the child through a series of yes-or-no questions, Hill drew out that Ruth Ann Arty, the lead investigator in the case, and two social workers had been sources of information for the girl as well as interviewers. The girl testified that investigators told her several things, including that doctors said she had sustained genital injuries and that they had been caused by someone else.
"She didn't take no for an answer, did she?" Hill asked, regarding Arty.
"Right," the girl responded.
Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore returned to that point later in the afternoon, asking the girl why she agreed with Arty - whom the girl refers to as "Miss Ruth Ann" - that something had happened to her.
"Because it was true," she said. "I just didn't want to tell them at that point. It just didn't feel like the right time."
Instead, the child testified, she told Arty, the social workers and later her psychologist about the abuse in bits and pieces. She first told them about the occasions when, she said, she awoke to find Hyde touching her buttocks and then her genital area.
And then, on New Year's Eve, just before a trip to see the Nutcracker ballet, she called Arty to tell the investigator that she had been raped.
The alleged victim also testified that she now mostly refers to Hyde as "Dirtman," explaining that she chose the moniker because "I felt that I was kind of happy that I was telling everything, and that he was kind of like dirt under my feet."
She also told the judge about one mechanism that she and her parents came up with to help deal with what happened to her. She calls it her "burn basket."
"My parents thought there were things in the house that would make me remember, so they got a basket and said, 'Why don't we just burn the stuff?'" the girl testified.
"I was confused and mad," she said.
Suggesting that the young girl is not above lying, Hill asked her about an occasion this summer when she hit her younger brother with a plastic golf club.
"You tried to convince him that he fell down, and you lied to your parents about it?" the defense lawyer asked. "And you had to talk about that in counseling because it took you a long time to tell your parents the truth?"
The girl agreed.
The Sun is not disclosing many details from yesterday's hearing to protect the alleged victim's identity.
The girl's mother testified briefly yesterday afternoon and is expected to return to the stand this morning to describe the afternoon she confronted Hyde about the alleged abuse. Defense attorneys said in court yesterday that they plan to play a tape of the confrontation, which was recorded by police with the woman's permission on the eve of Hyde's arrest.
Free on bail since his arrest in August last year, Hyde has been renting a cabin in a small Idaho town near the Canadian border. If convicted of the rape charge, he could receive up to 20 years in prison.