Updated Wednesday April 19
Carlos Stevenson walked out of Dukes County Courthouse a free man Friday, after a jury of 12 found him not guilty of rape of a child under 16 years old and five counts of indecent assault and battery of a child under 14 years old.
Mr. Stevenson, 50, cried as the verdict was read. His wife, Heidi Ray Stevenson, was also crying, held by another woman. She, too, was wiping tears from her eyes, even before the jury entered the court. Ms. Stevenson’s mother sat behind them, holding onto their shoulders. The Stevensons’ sons, 19 and 21 years old, sighed in relief.
His attorneys, Janice Bassil and John Oh, warmly embraced Mr. Stevenson and his family after the verdict was read.
The alleged victim’s father, along with Detective Mark Stanton of Tisbury, were also in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
Jurors, nine women and three men, heard testimony from 11 witnesses over four days, including Mr. Stevenson and the woman who accused him of assault. It took them about four hours to return a verdict.
The woman, now 26, testified Tuesday and Wednesday at the trial. She claimed that Mr. Stevenson sexually assaulted her between 2000 and 2003, when she was between the ages of 10 and 13. She said she babysat for the family on multiple occasions, and that Mr. Stevenson had given her rides to and from Island Gymnastics in West Tisbury when he was taking his two sons there. She said the events that gave rise to the charges occurred at the Stevenson home in Vineyard Haven and in Mr. Stevenson’s truck. She also said an incident occurred at the home of John Pearson, a neighbor for whom she was pet-sitting.
She testified about several incidents in which she claimed Mr. Stevenson touched her inappropriately. She said she didn’t tell her parents because Mr. Stevenson told her not to, threatening that he would harm her family or her pets, and because she was embarrassed.
Testimony concluded on Wednesday with the woman’s mother breaking down on the stand as she recounted details of her daughter’s childhood. She recalled Mr. Stevenson being the one who would call to ask if her daughter could babysit for his children, and she also recalled her daughter suddenly wanting to stop doing so, and to stop pet-sitting for the Pearsons. She said her daughter would ask her to go with her to feed the cats.
“She just very suddenly stopped wanting to go,” the mother said.
Sgt. Garrison Vieira of West Tisbury and Detective Mark Santon of Tisbury investigated the case beginning in May 2014 and filed police reports on behalf of the woman. Tisbury police arrested Mr. Stevenson on July 11, 2014 for 11 counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, and one count of rape. Both Sgt. Vieira and Detective Santon testified for the prosecution on Thursday, and the defense questioned the process in which the alleged victim’s claims were corroborated.
During the woman’s testimony, she said her boyfriend first spoke to Lieutenant Matthew Mincon of West Tisbury, a friend of his, and eventually the woman, urged by her boyfriend, spoke with Lieut. Mincon about the allegations. She told the jury he was the first police officer she spoke with. Sgt. Vieira eventually took on the case, investigating what she said happened at West Tisbury around Island Gymnastics.
During cross-examination, Janice Bassil, the defense attorney, asked Sgt. Vieira if he checked records to see if the girl and Mr. Stevenson’s sons went to Island Gymnastics, and he told the jury he hadn’t checked. She asked if he spoke with the woman whom the alleged victim claimed she first told, and Sgt. Vieira answered “No.”
Detective Santon told the jury that Lieut. Mincon contacted him on May 22, 2014, and four days later Detective Santon went to the West Tisbury police station to meet with Lieut. Mincon, the woman, and her boyfriend.
Before arresting Mr. Stevenson, Detective Santon met with the woman twice, in two sit-down interviews, and also spoke with her parents and the Pearsons. He told the jury he specializes in sexual assault investigation, evidence collection, and crime scene investigation.
Ms. Bassil asked Detective Santon if he checked records to see when the Stevenson family moved into the home, which he said he did not. He also did not speak with Ms. Stevenson or the couple’s sons to verify if the girl was a babysitter for the family, and did not check records at Island Gymnastics.
Detective Santon told the jury he did not issue any search warrants for the Stevensons’ home. Ms. Bassil, referring to the allegations of pornography, questioned why, with a background in computer crime, Detective Santon never confiscated Mr. Stevenson’s computer.
The defense attorney also questioned why police never tested the couch that the woman claimed Mr. Stevenson assaulted her on at the Pearsons’ home. The first time police spoke with Mr. Pearson, he had told them the couch was still in the basement, but they did not swab the couch or take a sample of the cloth. Soon after, the Pearsons got rid of the couch.
“The allegations didn’t lead us to think there would be trace evidence on the couch,” Detective Santon said. He said that it was determined that 10 to 13 years later, there wouldn’t be evidence.
“DNA can last a long time, can it not?” Ms. Bassil asked. “Fifteen to 20 years later?”
Detective Stanton answered “Yes” to both questions.
The defense also poked holes in the alleged victim’s testimony, and used Mr. Stevenson and his wife to do it.
Mr. Stevenson, who owns Mosher Photo in Vineyard Haven, was asked repeatedly whether he inappropriately touched the alleged victim, or watched pornography in front of her, and each time he answered by saying, “No,” or “Absolutely not.”
Several members of the Stevenson family attended the trial in its entirety. On Thursday, one of the couple’s sons sat with his arm around his mother as they watched Mr. Stevenson testify.
Ms. Stevenson also took the stand, and contradicted what the woman told jurors during testimony earlier in the week.
They both said that the only time the woman babysat for them was on Dec. 10, 2004. They remember that night specifically because Ms. Stevenson’s mother, Susan Fairbanks, was the one who babysat for them, but on this particular night, she had a Christmas party and was unable to babysit, so the couple asked the girl. Both Mr. and Ms. Stevenson gave that same testimony.
During cross-examination, the assistant district attorney, Laura Marshard, asked Ms. Stevenson if she was “adamant” that Dec. 10, 2004, was the first time the woman babysat for their children.
“It’s the only time,” Ms. Stevenson said.
An invoice for the Christmas party at the Mansion House from Dec. 10, 2004, was submitted as evidence.
Ms. Fairbanks was the last witness to testify on Friday. She said she remembered that day “because I felt bad. I thought that they would be missing the party, because Heidi was very particular about who she wanted to have take care of her children.”
Because the alleged incidents happened nearly 20 years ago, much of the testimony lacked details and specifics, with witnesses sometimes answering that they didn’t recall.
For example, the woman, then in her senior year of high school in 2009, took a survey a fellow student, Katherine Monterosso, conducted about sexual assault. On that survey, the alleged victim said she was molested by a neighbor when she was 9 years old. As the defense pointed out, she did not yet live next door to Mr. Stevenson at that time.
“No, I did not,” she said. “I misspoke on the age I told her.”
The father of the woman testified on Wednesday, and said that to the best of his recollection they moved to their home on Mayflower Lane in Vineyard Haven, next door to the Stevensons, in the spring of 2002.
Evidence submitted on Wednesday and Thursday involved the defense providing documents that looked to prove the family actually moved to Mayflower Lane in 2003, because there were discrepancies in police reports and testimony. Defense confirmed that in 2003 the alleged victim was 13 years old.
A Tisbury occupancy permit for her family’s Mayflower Lane home was submitted as evidence on Wednesday, dated June 30, 2003. A deed to the home, which was dated 1998, as well as information regarding when they took out a mortgage for the home, dating to 2001, were also submitted by the district attorney as evidence. In cross-examination, however, the defense said that the deed was for the land, and the mortgage was to build the house.
During testimony from Ms. Stevenson on Thursday, she said she remembered the woman and her family moving next door in 2003 because there were issues with their property lines. The Stevensons had hired a surveyor because the family was staking their driveway out too close to the Stevensons’ property line. A surveyor’s invoice, dated May 23, 2003, to resurvey their property line, was submitted by the defense as evidence.
In closing arguments, the defense urged the jury to question the alleged victim’s credibility. Ms. Bassil questioned the thoroughness of the investigations conducted by West Tisbury and Tisbury police. There was no way to corroborate the woman’s claims, Ms. Bassil told the jury — no physical evidence, no eyewitnesses, and inconsistencies in testimony.
Ms. Marshard asked jurors to not think so much about the specifics or the details, and to look at the acts themselves. She said the alleged victim’s story was consistent, in that although dates and places were changed, the acts of sexual assault themselves remained the same.
“Is it the date or is it the act?” she asked the jury. “The acts never vary.”
But the defense painted a different picture — a picture of a “troubled young girl” who has struggled over the years with substance abuse, was fired from her job, and arrested for driving under the influence on multiple occasions.
“But the fact is when your life is a mess, when it wasn’t turning out the way she hoped it is, sometimes, in a very strange way, it’s easier to blame someone else then to take responsibility,” Ms. Bassil told the jury.