When questioned by authorities, former Carroll County schools Superintendent William H. Hyde never denied sexually abusing the elementary school girl who has accused him, saying instead that he might have slept through or forgotten any abuse of the child, a criminal investigator testified yesterday.
"He never said during the conversation that he didn't do it," Ruth Ann Arty, the lead investigator in the case, testified. "He continually said, 'It's possible, but I don't remember. If [the girl] says I did it, I guess I did it. The evidence overwhelms me.'"
Arty was the only witness to testify yesterday in the fourth day of Hyde's trial on charges that he raped and sexually abused the young girl last summer. She is scheduled to continue testifying today.
Hyde, 62, left the Carroll County school system in August 2000 to take a superintendent's job in a small Montana logging community. He returned to the county for about two weeks last summer and is charged with abusing the girl at her family's home in July last year.
During nearly four hours of questioning by prosecutor Tracy A. Gilmore, Arty detailed how she learned of the alleged abuse, her contact with Hyde during the investigation and the 11 occasions when she interviewed the girl or received information about the abuse from her.
Arty, a civilian investigator for the state police Child Abuse and Sexual Assault unit, testified that on Aug. 7, 2002, just moments after he had left a police-staged confrontation in which the girl's mother accused him of raping her daughter, Hyde sought her out. The veteran child abuse investigator had worked with Hyde during his years as a school administrator in Carroll County.
Hyde did not know that Arty knew of the girl's accusations, or that Arty was leading the then-19-day-old investigation in the matter, the investigator testified.
"He said [the girl] had vaginal injuries, that he was being accused and that he needed me to help him," Arty told the judge. Testifying that she chose to use "the investigative technique of deception," Arty said she told Hyde that she first would have to speak to the girl and to the girl's mother. She already had met with them several times.
After meeting with Arty for about an hour and a half the next morning at a Reisterstown restaurant, Hyde agreed to follow her to the Westminster state police barracks to try to "eliminate himself as a suspect by investigative means," Arty testified. Although she did not specifically mention it yesterday, she and Hyde testified at a preliminary hearing in March that he had gone to the barracks to take a lie-detector test, which he failed.
At those hearings, Hyde's lawyers unsuccessfully tried to bar from trial his statements to investigators and two letters of apology he wrote to the girl at the barracks in the hours before his arrest. They argued that the statements - both written and oral - were not voluntary because Hyde was pressured by investigators into making them before he had seen an attorney. That request was denied by Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., who is hearing the case in trial and, because Hyde waived his right to a jury trial, will render the verdict.
After spending nearly two hours in the barracks lobby and another two hours or so with the state trooper administering the polygraph test, Hyde sat down for another interview with Arty.
"He was calm, friendly and cooperative. I told Mr. Hyde that at that point it looked like he definitely was a suspect," Arty testified. She quoted Hyde as responding, "I don't know what to say. I don't remember doing it. If I remembered abusing her, I would tell you."
She testified that she discussed with Hyde "his many female relationships and my interpretation of why he seems to need a sexual connection." Arty said she then began showing him "bits of evidence" - including medical reports that documented signs of long-term abuse of the girl, his responses from the police-taped confrontation with the girl's mother and photographs from the child's forensic medical exam.
She testified that Hyde said he didn't think the girl was lying and quoted him as saying, "If she says it happened, maybe it did. But maybe I was asleep because I don't remember it."
After Hyde wrote a letter to the girl, apologizing for touching her genital area, Arty questioned him about sexual acts that the child had not accused him of.
Asked whether he had ever engaged in oral sex with the girl, Hyde, according to Arty, responded, "Not that I recall."
Earlier yesterday, Arty detailed her meetings with the girl, from their first encounter on the swing-set outside her baby sitter's home to their final interview, an emotional exchange Dec. 31 during which the girl accused Hyde of raping her in addition to sexual touching she had earlier described.
The Sun is not disclosing many details from the case to protect the girl's identity.
At the end of the discussion, Arty said, the child told her "she was feeling like she was going to be free in 2003. It was New Year's Eve."
If convicted of the rape charge, Hyde could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.