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Trial begins in Trego County child abuse case

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WaKEENEY — The trial of a WaKeeney man facing multiple charges involving children began Wednesday morning at the Trego County Courthouse after a full day of jury selection Tuesday.

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WaKEENEY — The trial of a WaKeeney man facing multiple charges involving children began Wednesday morning at the Trego County Courthouse after a full day of jury selection Tuesday.

District Court Judge Glenn R. Braun read the jury, made up of five men and nine women, their preliminary instructions in the case of David W. Tidball.

Tidball

“Your job is to determine the facts,” Braun said.

Tidball is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, three counts of abuse of a child, aggravated intimidation of a child, lewd and lascivious behavior and two counts of promoting obscenity to a minor.

The alleged crimes took place between July 23, 2013, and July 2015. The four alleged victims, all males, were approximately 11, 8, 7 and 4 years of age at the beginning of that time period.

In his opening statement, Lee Davidson, assistant attorney general, said the case was about two single mothers.

“As with many single mothers, they were short on time and money,” Davidson said.

He continued that Tidball, who owned a local business, the Potter’s Nook, offered to watch the boys after school for free while their mothers were at work and bought them gifts their mothers couldn’t afford. At first, he seemed to be a nice man just willing to help out.

“It sounds too good to be true, and it turns out it was,” Davidson said.

Davidson told the jury that throughout the course of the trial, they would hear how Tidball showed pornography to some of the boys, touched their privates, spanked them without permission from their mother and became very possessive of the boys, demanding to spend more time with them.

Defense attorney Cheryl Stewart reserved her opening statement for after the state rests its case.

The first witness called by the state was Ashley Garza, assistant chief for the WaKeeney Police Department.

Garza testified that on July 18, 2015, she spoke to the mother of a minor child who was upset about the relationship her son had with Tidball, as well as the behavior her son had been exhibiting.

“She said that he had become withdrawn and mean toward her and his younger sister,” Garza said.

Garza confiscated the cellphone Tidball had given to the boy without his mother’s permission.

On July 24, 2015, Garza conducted her first interview with Tidball at the Law Enforcement Center.

Garza said during that interview, Tidball stated some of the children might have seen his private area during camping trips while in the showers at Cedar Bluff. He said he would help wash the children while camping, made allegations that the mother of the three younger children didn’t care about their hygiene, and said he had discussions with them and might have shown them some pictures about how babies are made.

Interviews of children, including the four alleged victims in the case, were conducted July 23, 2015, in WaKeeney by the Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center, according to Garza.

A search warrant was obtained for Tidball’s residence and the Potter’s Nook, and Garza testified Tidball was arrested July 27, 2015.

During cross examination, Stewart asked Garza if any pornographic pictures or videos had been found during the searches.

“No,” Garza said.

The state called the mother of the three younger boys as its next witness.

“Do you know the defendant, David Tidball?” Davidson asked.

“Unfortunately I do,” the mother said, holding back tears.

She testified she met the defendant through his business where her mother, her children and sometimes herself would go to paint pottery.

“He became a family friend,” she said.

After their grandmother couldn’t watch the boys as much, Tidball offered to watch them after school, and they would sometimes go camping with him or spend the night at his home.

“He then started getting very possessive of my children,” she said.

Tidball accused her of overdosing the children, who have ADHD as well as other diagnoses. The children see a doctor every 30 days to ensure they are getting the proper doses of medication and that their medications don’t react with each other.

He also gave her children a cellphone without her permission.

According to the mother, a falling out occurred between her and Tidball after he called her demanding to see the children and threatening to turn her in to the Department for Children and Families for child abuse if she didn’t bring the children to his home that morning.

That, coupled with the fact the boys had begun telling her things about Tidball and how he would be mean to them, prompted her to tell Tidball he was to have no further contact with her children.

“The next day, DCF was at my house,” she said.

Tidball turned her in for child abuse.

DCF conducted an investigation and found no evidence of abuse by their mother.

Three weeks later, she was contacted about a new investigation involving Tidball.

The mother said her middle son has now been diagnosed with PTSD and has to attend a special school for social disability.

During cross examination, Stewart questioned the mother about allowing her children to go to campouts at the Potter’s Nook and Tidball’s home.

“You thought he was a wonderful person?” Stewart said.

“Pretty much,” the mother said.

“You decided to let the kids keep the cellphone even though it bothered you?” Stewart said.

“Yes, I did decide to let them keep it.”

The mother of the oldest alleged victim also was called to the stand.

“I thought he was a friendly, grandpa-type guy,” she said about meeting Tidball after her kids began hanging out at the Potter’s Nook.

But then Tidball began taking her son on campouts at Cedar Bluff without her permission, and her son’s behavior started to change. His grades declined, and he became belligerent and disrespectful.

“He wasn’t himself,” she said. “He was withdrawn and angry.”

“Did you ask the defendant to talk to your son about sex?” Davidson asked.

“No,” she said with a shake of her head. “No.”

During cross examination, Stewart asked the mother if she gave her kids permission to go to sleepovers at Tidball’s home.

“No. I found out after the fact,” she said.

“Did you ever tell them no?” Stewart asked.

“Not really,” the mother said.

Following the lunch recess, the state called Mandie Lutz, Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center, to the stand.

Lutz, who is a forensic interviewer, testified she interviewed the children in the case.

The jury was shown four videotaped interviews with each of the alleged victims.

“He was touching us,” one of the children said in his interview.

“Touching you where?” Lutz asked.

“In bad spots,” the child said.

“Did anyone tell you not to talk about this?” Lutz asked in one of the tapes.

“Dave told me not to tell anybody,” the child said.

Upon cross examination, Stewart asked Lutz if she talked to the police and the guardians prior to interviewing the boys.

“I have talked to law enforcement a little before to know what some of the allegations are,” Lutz said.

“So they tell you what questions to ask?” Stewart asked.

Lutz said it just helps to know how she should direct her questioning.

The oldest alleged victim in the case, now 14, was called to the stand shortly after 3:30 p.m.

“Did the defendant ever show you videos with naked people?” Davidson asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“What types of videos?” Davidson asked.

“Teen porn,” the boy said.

“Did he ever touch you?” Davidson asked.

“No.”

Davidson asked where the boy was sitting when Tidball showed him the videos.

“Beside him,” he said.

“Where were the defendants clothes?” Davidson asked.

“Off. He would masturbate.”

Davidson asked the teen how that made him feel.

“Uncomfortable,” he said.

Stewart, during cross examination, asked the boy whether he looked up to Dave.

“Yes,” he said.

“You said you felt uncomfortable. Did you ever feel like you could get up and leave?” Stewart asked.

“No,” the boy said.

“But has it bothered you to miss this friend?” Stewart asked.

“A bit,” he said.

Shortly before 4:30 p.m., the youngest alleged victim in the case, now almost 8, was called to the witness stand.

After he was sworn in, Braun asked the boy if he knows the difference between the truth and a lie.

“Yes,” he said.

“So if I said my robe was white, would that be the truth?” Braun asked.

“No,” the boy said.

“What color is my robe?” Braun asked.

“Black,” he said.

Davidson asked the boy what he calls the private area on a boy.

“Did Dave ever touch you there?” Davidson asked.

“Yeah,” the boy said.

“Did you want him to?” Davidson asked.

“No,” he said.

“Why?” Davidson asked.

“I don’t want other people to …” he trailed off.

“To touch you there?” Davidson asked.

“Yeah,” the boy said.

Trial resumed at approximately 8:30 this morning and will include testimony from the other alleged victims, as well as an audio recording of the defendant’s interview.