In December 2005, Wayne Dabb, 56, was convicted by a jury in Dickinson County, Michigan of sexually abusing two of his stepchildren.
Dabb’s wife had provided day care for the victims and other children in her home for several years.
In 2000, Brian, who was then 9, told his mother that Dabb had sexually touched him. A few days later, Nicole, his half-sister who was six years old, made a similar allegation. The mother did not report these allegations to police and continued to send her children to day care at Dabb’s home.
In April 2004, the victims were placed in a foster home because their step father had physically abused them. One week after moving into the foster home, the victims told their foster mother than Dabb had sexually abused them. The foster mother made a report to the Dickinson County Department of Human Services, which sparked a criminal investigation and Dabb’s indictment on charges of second degree criminal sexual assault.
Some time before the trial, the victims admitted to a Department of Human Services caseworker that they had engaged in sexual activities with each other.
Brian and Nicole also accused Dabb of sexually touching two other children. Those children, however, denied the allegations and their mother said she had no reason to suspect it was true.
At Dabb’s trial, the judge granted the prosecution request to exclude evidence of the children’s sexual activities with each other and the girl’s prior sexual abuse by her biological father when she was four years old. (At the time, the father had pleaded no contest to second degree sexual criminal assault.)
Dabb’s attorney sought to admit the evidence to show bias or motive, but that motion was denied. Because the defense attorney had missed the deadline for filing a witness list, he was not allowed to call any witnesses, including the two children and their mother who said there was no abuse by Dabb.
During the trial, Dabb attempted to introduce testimony from the boy victim’s mother that in 2000 she caught her son with his pants off on top of his three-year-old cousin and when she asked him what he was doing, he said that Dabb had taught him to do it. Dabb contended that this evidence showed the boy’s motive in making allegations against him in order to avoid punishment for his own sexual misconduct.
The judge ruled the testimony inadmissible, but did allow the mother to testify she had caught the boy “doing a bad thing” and when confronted, he said Dabb had “done something to him.” She also testified that her son frequently blamed others when he was facing punishment.
Dabb took the stand in his own defense and denied all allegations of sexual abuse. The defense argued that the children were liars who concocted stories when they got into trouble.
In closing argument, the prosecutor argued to the jury that “there’s been no evidence to suggest that these children avoided some kind of trouble by disclosing the sexual abuse, or that it benefited them in any way whatsoever.”
Dabb was convicted by a jury and 4 ¾ to 15 years in prison. The conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered on December 4, 2007 by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which held that the excluded evidence should have been admitted to show the victims’ bias and motive. The court noted that “being caught committing sexual assault on a three-year-old child provides a very strong ulterior motive for making a false charge, i.e. to deflect blame…”
The state petitioned for leave to appeal the decision and on June 20, 2008, the Michigan Supreme Court refused to accept an appeal. In July, 2008, Dabb was released on bond pending a second trial. The charges were dismissed on August 4, 2008.
– Maurice Possley