Caldwell man molested girl, jury finds

Date: 2009-11-19

BY KRISTIN RODINE

Flanked by her guardian and a counselor, the young victim sat motionless when she heard Kekoa Glenn Gaunavinaka pronounced guilty of lewd conduct with a child.

After a day and a half of testimony, 10 women and two men took almost five hours to reach their unanimous verdict. One juror wiped away tears as the 12 filed in to give their ruling.

The maximum sentence for lewd conduct is life in prison. Gaunavinaka's sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 11.

The 13-year-old victim told the jury that Gaunavinaka regularly had sexual intercourse with her for about two years, starting when she was 11. She said she believed he would kill her if she told anybody and spoke up this summer only after he was already in jail on separate charges.

Gaunavinaka, 35, testified briefly in his defense Wednesday, answering "no" each time his attorney asked if a specific allegation was true about his actions with the girl.

He and the girl had a close bond, he said, and he enjoyed taking her to movies and church activities - though not as often as the girl alleged. And he denied ever taking the girl to remote locations to have sex, which the girl said happened very often.

Defense attorney Eric Baldwin implied the girl was lying, perhaps to please family members who don't like Gaunavinaka. The girl's mother and Gaunavinaka testified they had seen some problems with the girl's honesty, specifically instances in which she forged her mother's signature or changed a grade on a paper.

But such "little lies" are normal for children and far different than the specific and consistent allegations the girl made against Gaunavinaka, Deputy Canyon County Prosecutor Erica Kallin said.

And, Kallin stressed, the allegations are backed up by physical evidence, something that's rare in sexual abuse cases. Earlier Wednesday, a pediatrician who examined the girl twice said he found evidence consistent with sexual intercourse.

"It is my medical opinion that (the girl) has been sexually abused," said Dr. Michael Sexton, medical director of Children at Risk Evaluation Services.

Gaunavinaka is charged in a separate case with three counts of felony injury to a child, accused of habitually and brutally abusing his three adopted children. His trial on those charges is expected to begin Friday.

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