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William DeMotte

Other Child Sex Abuse Exonerations
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On the night of June 4, 1988, seven-year-old S.T. and her five-year-old brother, T.O., spent the night with their babysitter, Janet Stevens, in Newport, Indiana.

At about 3 a.m., Stevens’s boyfriend, 38-year-old William DeMotte, came into the apartment and went to sleep in the same bed with the children.

When Stevens came to wake the children, she found DeMotte in the bed with S.T. and T.O. The children were still dressed as they were when she put them to bed. DeMotte’s shirt and pants were on the floor.

Later that day, when S.T. and T.O. went home, T.O. told his mother that DeMotte had molested S.T. Questioned by her mother, S.T. refused to answer.

Two days later, their mother took S.T. and T.O. to the home of their father and stepmother. When the stepmother asked S.T. about the night at the babysitter, S.T. said DeMotte had tried to put his “thing” or “dick” in her “monkey.”

The family went to police on June 10, 1988. On June 14, Indiana State Police Detective Charles Bolinger and child welfare caseworker Sandy Curley videotaped an interview with S.T.

On August 23, 1988, a physician examined S.T. and concluded there was evidence of some trauma, but he was unable to say the cause, when it occurred, or if there had been more than one incident.

DeMotte denied molesting S.T. He took a polygraph examination and the examiner said he showed no deception when he denied molesting S.T.

On March 17, 1989, DeMotte was charged with felony child molestation. He went to trial in Vermillion County Circuit Court on September 27, 1989. Over the objection of DeMotte’s attorney, S.T.’s mother and stepmother were allowed to testify about the statements of S.T. and T.O that implicated DeMotte.

Stevens testified that although the children had not met DeMotte before, they were “all over” him the following morning, and neither showed any indication that anything wrong had occurred during the night. Stevens said S.T. and T.O. were playing with DeMotte and hugging him. DeMotte asked why the children were behaving so affectionately, and she “told him they thought any guy was their dad.”

The defense also objected to playing the recording of S.T.’s interview with Bolinger and Curley, contending that the vast majority of the recording was inaudible and therefore unreliable.

S.T. also testified, but when asked if the man who molested her was in the courtroom, she was unable to point to DeMotte.

The defense also sought to introduce testimony from two witnesses that the children’s mother previously told them that a family member had molested S.T.

On October 2, 1989, the jury convicted DeMotte of molestation of a child. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

DeMotte appealed. In June 1990, the Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that the trial judge had erroneously barred the defense from questioning witnesses about S.T.

The judge erred, the court said, in barring the defense from eliciting testimony regarding S.T.'s capacity “to describe accurately the alleged molesting.” The court held that DeMotte’s lawyer should have been allowed to question S.T.'s mother about S.T.'s knowledge of human and sexual development, and about the mother's knowledge of S.T.'s comments to her stepmother about human sexual activity.

The court also held that the defense should have been allowed to question S.T.'s stepmother about S.T.'s description of sex acts that S.T. purportedly had witnessed at her mother's home.

The court ruled that the judge had erroneously prohibited the defense from questioning Detective Bolinger about S.T.'s capacity to describe accurately what she reported. Moreover, the defense should have been allowed to question a school administrator about S.T.'s emotional problems, and about the results of an adaptive behavior test given to S.T. The appeals court said the results were said to have shown "S.T.'s poor academics, poor intellectuality, poor attention, excessive anxiety, excessive withdrawal, poor ego strength, poor sense of identity, poor reality contact, and excessive resistance.”

The court also ruled that the trial judge had failed to conduct a pre-trial hearing on the reliability of the taped interview before allowing it to be played for the jury.

DeMotte went to trial a second time in March 1991. During this trial, his lawyer was allowed to conduct extensive cross-examination of prosecution witnesses about S.T.’s credibility. On March 22, 1991, the jury acquitted DeMotte.

– By Kevin McKinnon and Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/25/2018
State:Indiana
County:Vermillion
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1988
Convicted:1989
Exonerated:1991
Sentence:10 years
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:38
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No