Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Defense Attorney Dina Cale discusses photo evidence with Investigator Kevin Vik of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation during the trial for Laurel Lee on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Kenai Courthouse in Kenai, Alaska. The Sterling woman accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in October 2014.

Opening arguments heard in sex assault case

After nearly two years, lawyers in the case of a Sterling woman accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy made their opening arguments Thursday at the Kenai Courthouse.

Laurel Lee, 52, was charged with first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor on Oct. 1, 2014 after allegedly pulling the boy off his bicycle near mile 80 of the Sterling Highway, taking him into the woods and performing oral sex on him on Sept. 30, 2014. After two days of jury selection, her defense attorney, Dina Cale, and Assistant District Attorney Kelly Lawson set the scene for the jurors and questioned their first handful of witnesses.

“He was heading to the store to buy some gum,” Lawson said during her opening argument.

Lawson described how the boy crossed the highway after Lee got his attention, and how she pulled him over a small hill and into the woods next to the road by his hands.

“And once there, you’ll hear that she forced her tongue into his mouth, that she held him down, that she pulled off his pants, and she forced oral sex on him,” Lawson said. Cale used her opening argument to present a different story, one in which Lee was the victim of sexual assault, not the boy. She described the same situation as Lawson, but instead emphasized the claims that Lee overpowered the boy by holding both his hands in one hand and his both feet in the other while performing fellatio.

“You’re going to hear a story, that (the minor,) a five-foot, six-inch, 120-pound teenage boy was going to the store get to some gum before he went to a big event in his life,” Cale told the jury. “You’re going to hear that while he was riding his bike to go get gum he encountered a five-foot, one-inch … 130-pound, 51-year-old, highly intoxicated Laurel Lee.”

Lawson made the point at a previous hearing that Lee never made an official statement as to having been a victim. When Lawson questioned Investigator Kevin Vik of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation Thursday, he testified that Lee made no mention of being victimized during the time he spent with her the night of the alleged incident. Another trooper who visited Lee at Wildwood Pretrial Facility to get a DNA sample and later for an interview, testified that at the time he spoke with her on Oct. 1, she hadn’t said anything physical had happened with the minor, only that the boy had come on to her.

Much of Thursday’s testimony was spent establishing a timeline through witnesses that included the minor’s older brother, his grandmother who is also his adopted mother, a neighbor, several Alaska State Troopers and a passerby.

Troopers were sent to the scene on the highway and to the minor’s home around 6:50 p.m. that night. After being attacked, witnesses said the boy called his older brother, who had already been out looking for him on a four-wheeler since they were going to be late to a ceremony inducting the boy onto a hockey team. The brothers met at a nearby church before returning home, where their grandmother called 911, the witnesses said.

One trooper responded to their house while Vik found Lee still in the woods near the highway. He had to drag her up the small hill back to his patrol car because she was so intoxicated, he testified. She was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital before being taken Wildwood Pretrial Facility for that reason.

Vik also testified that Lee’s pants fell down around her ankles as he pulled her back toward the patrol car, which he attributed to her pants button being undone. He did not know whether they had been undone before or after he began moving her, though. Lee’s trial will continue Friday. Kenai Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman advised the jury that the trial will likely continue into next week.

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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