SALT LAKE CITY -- Three men accused of raping a 9-year-old girl while her mother smoked meth in the garage of a Vernal home are on trial.
Jerry Flatlip, Randall Flatlip and Larson RonDeau are facing first-degree felony charges of rape of a child and sodomy on a child. The three men are accused of raping the girl on Easter Sunday in 2016. The girl's mother told police she was smoking methamphetamine in the garage when the alleged assault took place. A fourth man was initially charged in the case, but he was later dropped.
Uintah County Attorney Mark Thomas told the jury that the girl was threatened with her life. She ultimately disclosed the alleged rape to authorities two days after the fact.
He acknowledged there was little DNA evidence, but their case against the men would be based on testimony.
"These young men are all innocent as they sit here today," said Loni DeLand, Randall Flatlip's attorney, in his opening statement. He argued to the jury that there wasn't any physical evidence of a rape because none occurred.
"They took me to the back and all four of them did bad stuff to me. They said if I tell anybody, they were going to kill me," the girl, now 11, testified.
She appeared via a video hookup from another room so she did not have to face the men in court. Thomas and DeLand were in that room to question her. At times, members of the five man, five woman jury took notes and leaned forward as they watched the testimony. One woman's mouth opened and she appeared stunned by what she was hearing.
DeLand delicately pressed the girl on her previous statements to a Division of Child and Family Services caseworker. She could not recall the exact names of those who allegedly attacked her, nor specific details of how it occurred.
DeLand suggested that the girl's answers to whether she had been raped at all were prompted by her mother's questioning and statements, and the girl was afraid her mother might go back to jail so she agreed with whatever was said.
"You would do or say just about anything to keep your mom from leaving you again? That fair?" he asked.
"I don’t know," was the reply.
Thomas asked the girl what she needed to do in court.
"Tell the truth," the girl responded.
"Tell the jury what the four men did when they took you back to the room. What happened?" he asked.
"They raped me," the girl replied, describing briefly what happened.
"Did you make that up?" Thomas asked.
"No," she replied.
"Did you dream that?"
"That really happened?"
The case has taken a long time to get to trial. It was moved from Vernal's 8th District Court to Silver Summit because of concerns about a fair trial. Last year, a mistrial was declared because not enough people in the Park City area showed up for jury duty. (The judge later summoned all the no-show jurors to court to answer for it.)
Ultimately, the case was moved to Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court.