By Monica Velez
The ongoing sexual molestation case of Edward D. Hendrix lingers, with the witnesses continuing to take longer on the stand than Judge David W. Reed expected. On January 26, 2016, two former close friends of the alleged victim, “Sam,” along with Sam’s former assistant cheerleading coach, testified to the events that took place on October 10, 2014.
The first witness to take the stand was a 14-year-old girl, “Mel,” whom Sam was texting on the night of October 10. Sam was telling Mel what was happening while she was alone with her cheerleading coach’s boyfriend, Hendrix, waiting for her cheerleading coach, “Ms. S,” to get home.
On the night of October 10, Sam accused Hendrix of wanting to have sexual relations with her, by telling Mel in texts that Hendrix said she “was good for a 12-year-old.” Sam said in texts that Hendrix grabbed her butt, kissed her on the cheek and, after Sam denied him anything sexual, he told her to promise not to tell anybody about it.
Mel was on the same cheerleading team as Sam, at the time they were in the eighth grade, and that was when they became close friends. Mel said they would hang out at school during passing periods (between classes) and lunch.
After the cheerleading season ended, Mel said that was when her friendship with Sam faded away. Mel said it was because they would not see each other as often. However, they do occasionally see each other now at Woodland High School, but only enough for a brief “hello” in passing.
Mel said that between 5 and 6 p.m. on October 10, she was shopping with her mom and during this time Sam was text messaging Mel about what was happening to her while she was at Ms. S’ house.
Mel said that she felt “freaked out” after Sam told her what Hendrix did, and then Mel told her Mom about it. Mel offered Sam a ride home a couple of times and continually told her to get out of the house.
Sam told Mel that she had a ride from somebody else, and Mel believed her. Mel said that she did not talk about what allegedly happened between Hendrix and Sam with anybody besides Sam and her mom.
While Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin was questioning Mel on all this information, Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson was quick and adamant to throw in objections. The words “objection,” “relevance,” “sustained,” and “overruled” were dashing between the judge and the attorneys, going quicker than the amount of time there was to switch glances from each attorney.
Hutchinson began, on cross-examination, to ask Mel similar questions having to do with the cheer team and when she and Sam became friends. He brought up previous interviews Mel had had with Yolo County District Attorney Investigator Steve Gill and Yolo County Public Defender Investigator Shanna Bly.
At the beginning of Hutchinson’s questioning, Judge Reed called for a 10-minute recess, because a juror requested to use the restroom. Mel began to cry on the stand, telling Serafin that it was scary for her to be up there.
After the recess Hutchinson asked Mel about why she was crying, asking, “Am I that scary of a guy?”
Mel said that because Hutchinson was raising his voice she felt scared and that was why she began crying. Hutchinson said that he would be more aware of his tone of voice.
In an interview with Bly, Mel said that she talked to Sam on the phone and heard her crying, however her testimony in court was contradictory, as Mel now said that she did not talk to Sam on the phone and only communicated with her through text messages on October 10.
Hutchinson began digging at the suspicious statement, trying to get to the truth, but Mel said that she did not remember telling Bly that she heard Sam crying on the phone and stuck with her current statement, that she only talked to Sam through text.
After Serafin had a chance to ask Mel more questions in re-direct, Mel said that she did remember Sam crying about the incident but was not sure whether or not it was in person or over the phone.
At this point the tension between both attorneys was higher than the judge’s chair, as snide remarks and facial expressions were thrown at each other during the second recess of the morning, after arguing about whether or not Hutchinson was legally obligated to give Serafin the document with Bly’s statement.
After the recess, Mel’s patience started descending to the bottom of the court benches, her responses toward Hutchinson’s repetitive questions being short, with an irritated tone.
Hutchinson was persistent about getting to the truth, this time asking Mel about the previous interview she had with Investigator Gill. In the statement, Mel told Gill that she did not mention the incident of October 10 after the messages with Sam that night. Now Mel was saying that she did talk to Sam, after the text messages, about the incident, asking her if she was okay.
The second witness of the morning was the assistant cheer coach, “Ms. A,” and best friend of Ms. S’ for about five years. Ms. A has two daughters, and her youngest was on the same cheer team as Sam and Mel.
Ms. A explained that she considered Hendrix a friend but that she never talked or met with him one on one because there was no reason to – he was her friend’s boyfriend.
Ms. A said Hendrix, along with Ms. S and her two daughters, spent a Christmas together at her house, and they still all see each other even today, going to things like church.
When Sam asked Ms. S if she could spend the night at her house because she needed a ride to an away game on October 11, Ms. A was standing there and heard Ms. S say it was fine.
On October 11, Ms. A said that Sam, along with a group of the cheerleaders, came up to her and said that Sam had something to tell her. Ms. A asked Sam if she needed to talk to her in private and Sam said yes.
The assistant coach said she told the rest of the girls to start stretching, then took Sam off to the side and asked her what was wrong. Sam told Ms. A what happened at Ms. S’ house with Hendrix, and showed her the text messages between her and her friends about the incident.
Ms. A said that she was shocked and surprised by the messages and told Sam that they needed to talk to Ms. S about it because she needed to know what was going on.
Ms. A said that, in her opinion, it looked like Sam was forcing tears out while she was telling her what happened with Hendrix. She said it looked like Sam was trying to cry but the tears would not come out.
“It just didn’t feel like it was real, that’s my opinion,” said Ms. A.
Ms. A and Sam walked over to the parking lot where Ms. S was, and Sam gave her the phone to read the same messages. Ms. S said she does not know what Ms. S’ reaction was because after she brought Sam to her she left to go attend to the other girls.
Hutchinson asked her questions about the impression she had of Sam. Ms. A said Sam carried herself in a mature manner, seeming older than her age (12 when the incident happened).
Ms. A said that she expected Sam to be more upset about what happened with Hendrix, expecting her to go home, but she stayed the rest of the day and cheered, acting like she normally would and went home with another teammate.
When asked, Ms. A said she had allowed her daughter to spend the night at Ms. S’ house and never had any other information or complaints about Hendrix being inappropriate. Ms. A said she is not concerned with her daughters being around Hendrix.
Serafin implied that Ms. A might be trying to vouch for Hendrix and Ms. A said she does not have a reason to do that. Ms. A said she believes the true testimony she gave in court is the right thing to do for the defendant.
Questioning began for the third witness, “Jen,” in the afternoon, a former close friend of Sam’s, who also was texting with Sam on the night of October 10.
Jen is currently in ninth grade and said she used to be close with Sam in eighth grade. They started hanging out with different people and drifted apart, now only talking when they run into each other at school.
Jen was at the home of her longtime friend, “Lexi,” when Sam was texting her about what Hendrix was allegedly doing and saying on October 10. Jen said that she did not tell Lexi the details of what Sam was saying, only that Sam was feeling uncomfortable around an older male.
In the text messages, Sam gave Jen the same synopsis she gave Mel. Jen was persistent in making sure that Sam was telling her the truth, because she knew it was a serious accusation and did not want to believe her if she were joking around.
Like Mel, Jen told Sam to get out of the house, and to tell somebody to pick her up. Jen also offered Sam an escape route, saying that she could wake up Lexi’s mom, “Ms. D,” to come and pick her up, “no questions asked.”
Jen explained that Ms. D is a social worker, and she knew that if they asked her to help them out she would, without hesitation, because her job is to help children who are abused. Jen said that she was glad she was at Lexi’s house during this particular situation, and Lexi’s mom was indeed the one who picked Sam up on October 10.
Jen told Sam to call her mom and to, “Go home dude wtf!”
Jen said Sam told her that she had called her mom but she did not answer. Hutchinson pressed the fact that Sam was lying to Jen about that. In the phone records the attorneys have, there is no call that is made from Sam’s phone to her mother’s phone that night.
Jen said she did not know Sam was lying and had assumed, at the time, that Sam was telling her the truth.
Eventually, Sam’s mom found out about what allegedly happened between Sam and Hendrix, and called Jen’s mom, thinking that she was the one who picked up Sam on October 10.
Jen said Sam’s mom went over to their house and read the text messages between Sam and Jen. Jen described Sam’s mom as upset and overwhelmed.
Hutchinson asked Jen, “Did it seem strange to you that she contacted you and not her mother?”
Jen said it was strange to her because the first thing she would think of doing is calling her mother. Jen agreed with Hutchinson, saying it was also strange that Sam lied about calling her mother, and that she did not get out of the house the first chance she could.
“I was really concerned and didn’t know why she was still there,” said Jen.
Hutchinson brought up past interviews Jen had with Gill and Bly, finding contradictory statements Jen said about seeing Sam cry. In court Jen said Sam seemed “watery eyed,” but she told Gill in a prior interview that Sam was “not really crying, just uncomfortable about it.”
Jen said she just assumed Sam was crying, and Hutchinson explained that she couldn’t testify on assumption, because it is not the facts.
Serafin accused Hutchinson of unfair impeachment of her witness because he did not give her the document with Bly’s statements. Hutchinson argued that he was not legally obligated to release the document to Serafin, and they continued blasting arguments back and forth.
“Lets not interrupt each other, this is not a free-for-all,” said Judge Reed.
The clashing did not stop, the afternoon recess serving more as a pause button rather than a break. Hutchinson’s facial expressions showed disbelief to the “overruled” questions Serafin was able to sneak in.
The last 15 minutes of the afternoon Serafin used to begin questioning the fourth witness, Lexi’s mother.
Ms. D talked about how Lexi and Jen woke her up and said their friend needed help and a ride home. Ms. D said she only knew Sam was uncomfortable, needed help and it was important to Lexi because she knew never to wake her unless it was imperative.
The trial will resume with the rest of Ms. D’s testimony.