Testimony in the second day of the trial of a Paraguay man accused of raping a Fort Hays State University student shifted during the afternoon Tuesday to witnesses who were near the alleged perpetrator on the night of the event.
Fernando Cantero, an international student, is charged with rape, aggravated criminal sodomy and aggravated burglary for alleged events that happened Sept. 20, 2015, during the early morning hours on the fifth floor of McMindes Hall on campus.
Surveillance video showed Cantero and two other men, Brandon Mitchell and Joseph “Joey” Harrington, riding the elevator to the fifth floor. All three exited the elevator, but only Harrington and Cantero entered the female wing of the floor.
Harrington testified Tuesday afternoon in Ellis County District Court that the three went to the floor to find more people to hang out with, mentioning specifically they were looking for females.
They started on the second floor and went floor-by-floor until they reached the fifth floor.
“Fernando would knock and jiggle the handle and see if it was unlocked,” Harrington said.
“Did he knock on all of them?” asked Crystalyn Oswald, assistant Ellis County attorney.
“No. Just jiggled the handle,” Harrington answered.
Once on the fifth floor, the two opened a door and saw a female who appeared to be passed out on her bed, according to Harrington. They made their way down the hallway, eventually opening the door to a room where a female Harrington knew was in — although he didn’t know at the time she lived there.
Harrington said the female later was relieved when she realized he was with Cantero.
“She was relieved she saw a familiar face,” Harrington said.
The two went back down the hallway after the encounter, stopping again at the room with the apparently passed-out female.
Cantero went inside the room and leaned down next to the female, whispering in her ear, Harrington said. He stated he saw Cantero and the female begin kissing. Harrington then left, heading back to where Mitchell was waiting.
“I saw (Cantero) the next morning and asked what happened,” Harrington said. “And he just kind of blew it off.”
Defense attorney Robert Anderson Sr. asked if Harrington saw the female pull Cantero close to him.
“You could say that,” Harrington answered.
Mitchell testified Harrington told him Cantero and the female “were kissing or something” after Harrington left the room.
Another female on the floor testified she was alarmed when two people were being loud and trying to enter rooms. She said her door was locked as she worked on homework during the early morning hours and her roommate was asleep. She didn’t get a look at the two men.
She testified she heard someone enter the room by hers and could hear talking but could not make out the conversation.
Anderson spent a large portion of the day finishing his cross-examination of Fort Hays Police Officer Joshua Fleenor. He also spent a large amount of time questioning special agent Tim Beckham with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
His questions pointed at the work Fleenor did on the case and questions the officer failed to ask during inteviews.
Beckham did say DNA tests on the jeans Cantero — who has said the sex was consensual — was wearing that night and the sheets on the alleged victims bed did come back with Cantero’s DNA present.
The continued cross-examination of Beckham by Anderson will begin Wednesday’s court proceedings.