A 15-year-old girl began to cry on the witness stand Thursday as she was asked to look at the man accused of raping her when she was 12.
It was the second time she had to face and identify Teddy Guzman in court after a Pennington County jury couldn't unanimously decide last year whether he raped three young girls.
Guzman, a 38-year-old from Rapid City, is charged with three counts of first-degree rape for allegedly raping the girls between January 2015 and December 2017. He’s also charged with having sexual contact with one of the girls.
The oldest girl was 12 when she was raped, another was between nine and 10, and the youngest girl was five or six, according to the indictment.
The Journal does not name minor victims or victims of sexual assault, nor adults, who would give the victims’ identities away. The girls will be referred to by their ages when the rape allegations began to be reported in 2017, when the girls were 12, 10 and eight.
The 15-year-old was weepy throughout her testimony and began to cry and cover her face several times, such as when she recounted how Guzman raped her multiple times during a 2017 sleepover she attended.
Her parents testified that their outgoing, social, funny and straight-A daughter has become withdrawn and is behind two grades after failing school two years in a row.
“She used to be happy all the time and she’s not now,” the father said as he looked down and wiped his eyes. “She stays in her bedroom all the time, she swears all the time, she’s not the same.”
“She doesn’t want to do anything,” she just goes on TikTok at home instead of going out and talking to people, the mother said. “She just has no ambition anymore.”
Guzman first went to trial in January 2020 but it ended with a hung jury, which is when the 12 jurors can't all agree whether the defendant is guilty or not. It's unknown whether the jurors — and how many of them — were leaning toward conviction or acquittal.
Guzman, who wore a beige button-down shirt with a burgundy tie, glasses and short brown hair, listened attentively to the witnesses during the first day of the trial on Thursday. It’s unclear if he will testify like he did during his first trial.
The two other victims, the detective assigned to the case, the forensic interviewers who spoke with the victims, doctors and a trauma expert are expected to testify during this trial, which is scheduled for three weeks but will likely not take that much time.
Instead of sitting in the jury box, the nine men and seven women of the jury spread out in the spectator area so they could social distance. Four are alternates who will be removed when it comes time for deliberation.
“Everything changed” after the November 2017 sleepover, prosecutor Kelsey Weber said during her brief opening statement.
The 12-year-old girl woke up to Guzman on top of her, Weber said, and she struggled, cried and wondered “what did I do to deserve this” as he raped her.
Guzman told the girl not to tell anyone and the 10-year-old, the 12-year-old’s best friend, told her the next morning that “he does it to me too.”
The 12-year-old decided to tell her mother on Dec. 5, 2017 that Guzman raped her because she was in so much physical pain from the assault. The mother called police that night.
Guzman also raped the 10- and eight-year-old girls at other times, not during the sleepover, Weber said. He told the 10-year-old that she can’t tell anyone about the rape or else he would be in trouble and everyone would blame her. He also made her sexually touch him and told her it was normal for her to do that.
Conor Duffy, Guzman’s defense lawyer, said there are “conflicting interviews” about what happened the night of the sleepover, which took place at a small home where up to 14 people were staying. Multiple children were in the living room where the 12-year-old said she was raped.
The girl’s mother, not the girl herself, was the first one to suggest she was raped, Duffy said. Multiple people will testify that the 10-year-old “has a history of lying and stretching the truth.”
The 12-year-old was interviewed Dec. 11 and mentioned how the 10-year-old said Guzman did the same thing to her, Duffy said. The 10-year-old, who was now living with the eight-year-old in a group foster home, was interviewed on Dec. 15.
This is when "the train starts moving down the track and it builds its own momentum," when the “the apparatus" becomes involved, Duffy said. The apparatus is all of the government agencies involved in the case: law enforcement, prosecutors, the forensic interviewer, Child Protection Services, and staff and other children at the foster home.
Duffy also cast doubt on the science behind forensic interviews and said children tend to tell adults what they think they want to hear. He said the jury will watch a video where an interviewer is “trying very hard” to get a confession from the 10-year-old, who “consistently and repeatedly” denies that Guzman did anything.
The girl only said she was raped on Dec. 22 after speaking with counselors, foster children who had been abused, and the foster mother who “bombarded” her with comments that she will be brave if she confesses, Duffy said.
He said the 10-year-old wasn’t interviewed again until Jan. 5, 2018 and Guzman was indicted on first-degree rape even though she didn’t mention that she was penetrated.
The eight-year-old girl was interviewed later in July after telling her foster mother on July 10 that Guzman raped her. Duffy questioned why it took that long for authorities to consider interviewing the youngest girl.
Child interviews, trauma
The first person to testify was Hollie Strand, who investigates online child sexual exploitation for the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office after working as a forensic interviewer for eight years.
The forensic interview process is backed by science, conducted in an age-appropriate way and designed to find “the most accurate information,” Strand said. The interview doesn’t usually uncover all details when a child is abused, further information tends to come out during therapy.
Strand said interviewers explain “ground rules,” such as that it’s OK for the child to say they don’t understand a question or to correct the interviewer if they say something wrong. They make sure to ask non-leading questions so they don’t influence the child’s answers.
People react differently to trauma, and there’s no “right way” to do so, Strand said. She said trauma can impact people’s memories, make them forget details, and cause them to tell events out of order.
She said most children delay or never report abuse because they don’t know what happened to them is wrong, they are embarrassed, they think they will be blamed or not believed, or they're afraid of retribution.
An “incredibly small percent” of children make false accusations but children are not sophisticated liars, which means they usually tell the truth later on, Strand said. Those cases can involve a parent coaching a child what to say.
Strand said the forensic interview process involves determining a child’s recall ability, whether they know the difference between a truth and a lie, and if they’ve been pressured to say anything.
Strand admitted to Duffy that some studies about forensic interviews have conflicting findings and that some practices — such as using dolls and the theory of “piecemeal disclosure”— are controversial.
Parents, victim testify
The 15-year-old and her parents shared consistent stories about how they knew Guzman and his family
The two families met when they lived across the street from each other in Box Elder. Guzman, his girlfriend and some of his children then moved in with the victim’s family after they moved to Rapid City. Guzman and his family moved out by the time of the November 2017 sleepover.
The kids and adults were friends with each other, and they had no problems with Guzman.
The Journal could not make out much of what the 15-year-old said due to the poor audio quality in the spectator room set up due to COVID-19 precautions.
The girl said Guzman asked her to show him her private parts when they were at the house and away from other children at the sleepover.
She said the children later watched a movie and went to bed in the living room. She said she fell asleep on the couch but woke up to Guzman on top of her, trying to pull her pants down.
The girl paused to cry multiple times as she recalled what happened next. She said he felt his “bathroom part” against her butt and she told him “no” and “stop” as she cried. She said he painfully penetrated her the two other times he returned that night.
The girl said she didn’t tell anyone what happened when she woke up but the 10-year-old told her she knew what happened that night, and that it’s happened to her too.
She said she eventually told her mother what happened due to “the pain” from the rape and because she was afraid of Guzman. The girl said her friend never told her what exactly Guzman did to her and she hasn’t been able to speak to the 10- and eight-year-old since she reported the rape.
The girl told Duffy that some people — the Journal could not make out who she mentioned — told her before her interview that she needed to tell the truth about Guzman or else he could hurt others. She also said her 10-year-old friend sometimes lies about things.
The mother avoided looking at Guzman throughout her testimony, even when she pointed at him to identify him.
She said her daughter began spending a lot of time in her room, hitting herself and being mean to her siblings after the sleepover, but she assumed this was just due to her becoming a teenager. The father said his daughter complained that her stomach hurt, “was really quiet” and “started to be a little bit distant.”
The girl was pacing back and forth on Dec. 5, 2017 so the mother asked what was wrong.
“Mom, I have to tell you something,” she remembers her daughter saying. “Of course, you can tell me anything,” she replied.
“Mom, he did it,” the daughter said.
The mother said she asked what she meant and her daughter began to bawl.
“What, sex?” The mother said she asked. “Yes,” the girl said. With who, the mom replied. “Teddy,” the girl said.
The mother said she suggested the issue was about sex since her daughter was so upset and mentioned the word "he."
She said she called the police and an officer arrived who only talked to her, not the daughter. The mother agreed with the officer's suggestion not to talk to her daughter about the rape until the forensic interview because she knows that parents can sometimes coach their children on what to say.
The mother said she brought her daughter to the emergency room for a rape exam, a “horrifying experience” where a nurse had to tell the male doctor to stop asking questions about what happened.
The parents later drove their daughter to the forensic interview. They and their daughter all testified that they didn’t tell their daughter what to say, they only told her to tell the truth.
— Contact Arielle Zionts at firstname.lastname@example.org.