In August 1995, a 5-year-old girl in Clark County, Washington, reported that she had been sexually abused. Her mother’s boyfriend, John Tyler, said he examined the girl and found that she was bleeding from her vagina and that she told him that Ross Sorrels, who had been her babysitter the night before, had hurt her.
The girl was examined at the hospital and her injuries required major reconstructive surgery. While the doctors initially suspected Tyler, they changed their minds after watching him interact with the girl. Sorrels was interviewed; he admitted that he babysat the night before, but denied that he raped her. In what Tyler and the girl’s mother later described as a mistake, they gave the wrong items of clothing to the police, and the correct items were either thrown out or washed.
At trial, the principal evidence against Sorrels was testimony from the victim and from Tyler. Sorrels unsuccessfully argued that Tyler was the real perpetrator and, in December 1995, a jury convicted Sorrels of raping the girl and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In 2002, the victim and her sibling came forward and told authorities that Tyler had been abusing them and their sisters for years and that the victim did not remember Sorrels ever hurting her.
The victim’s sister told police that before going to the hospital, Tyler had disposed of the victim’s nightgown and took her sister’s nightgown with him instead. Though the victim had told her grandmother soon after the rape that Tyler, not Sorrels, had raped her, the grandmother reported this only to the victim’s mother, who did nothing.
In 2002, Tyler was convicted of multiple counts of sexually abusing the sisters. Following Tyler’s conviction, in January 2003, a Superior Court judge overturned Sorrels’s conviction and granted him a new trial. The prosecution then dismissed the case.
- Stephanie Denzel