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Witness's health may hurt molestation case



Nov 20 2006 10:35 PM

Last Updated: Monday, Nov 20 2006 10:39 PM

A witness may not be able to testify in a child molestation case, which could jeopardize some of the charges against the accused man, the Kern County District Attorney's office said Monday.

Justin Erbacher, 22 is accused of about 20 counts of child molestation against numerous alleged victims.

But one of the victims is sick and may not be able to testify at the trial, which is scheduled for January, said Deputy District Attorney John Somers.

KGET Channel 17 reported the girl has cystic fibrosis and may die from the disease in two months. Somers would not confirm that.

The prosecution may ask for the girl to testify on videotape before the trial if she is physically able, Somers said.

But Somers said that even if the girl is never able to testify, the case will proceed to trial because other witnesses will testify.

At worst, some of the charges against Erbacher regarding the girl may have to be dismissed if the girl can't testify, Somers said.

Erbacher is accused of molesting foster children in his parents' home and in other homes, according to investigators.

Erbacher's attorney, Michael Webb, said he has not had time yet to consider how the health of the witness would affect the case.

The sexual abuse came to light after one of the alleged victims grew so afraid she threatened to commit suicide, according to court records and Bakersfield police.

There have been other odd twists in this case. A couple weeks after Erbacher was arrested on April 4, his father, Stephan, 44, committed suicide as police were coming to his house to arrest him on suspicion of child sexual abuse.

A 13-year-old girl -- also one of the alleged victims -- was arrested on 15 felony counts of sexual assault. Her name was never released because she is a minor, police say.

2006 Nov 20