Teen testifies in sexual assault trial

GREENFIELD — It first happened when she was 6 years old, she told the jury. She said she can remember what she was wearing, what he was wearing, where they were and everything about what happened.

A young teenager testified Tuesday that the man seated at the defendant’s table repeatedly sexually assaulted her, describing each alleged instance of abuse in vivid detail.

Robert Celio, 34, of Greenfield, faces six felony charges related to child molest and intimidation, court records show. He is standing trial this week in Hancock Circuit Court.

Tuesday, he sat and listened as the girl took the stand to detail the years of abuse she said she suffered at Celio’s hands.

“Something like that sticks with you forever,” she said.

Eight men and four women were selected Tuesday morning to serve as the jury during the proceedings.

Prosecutors say they will rely heavily on testimony from the girl and several therapists who have counseled her expected to testify Wednesday to prove their case. Meanwhile, Celio’s defense attorney, Jeff McClarnon of Greenfield, has suggested to the jury these professionals have coached the girl, leading her to develop more specific allegations over time — with some details coming to light only in the last week.

He hasn’t been the best caregiver, McClarnon said, “but he didn’t do what has been alleged.”

Deputy Prosecutor Marie Castetter warned the jury much of the evidence presented during the trial will be difficult to hear.

Celio began abusing the victim when she was very young, Castetter said. On at least four occasions, he assaulted her, sometimes threatening the girl or barricading the door to her bedroom so no one could come to the girl’s aid, she said.

Once, Celio held a knife to the girl’s throat; another time, he put a gun to her head and said he would kill her if she reported the abuse, Castetter told the jury.

The girl reported the abuse only after Celio had been arrested and put in jail on an unrelated charge, court documents state.

The victim told the court Celio often abused her after excessively drinking alcohol.

Once, when other people were in the home, Celio pulled a dresser in front of the doorway to keep anyone else from coming inside, the girl testified.

She told jurors she heard another adult jiggling the door handle because she was certain she could hear her screams.

She told jurors she kept her eyes closed when Celio attacked her.

“I tried not to look,” the girl told the jury. “I’d wait until my punishment — or whatever it was — was over.”

McClarnon told the jury the victim’s tale is something that developed over time.

The girl worked closely with investigators as Celio’s criminal case moved through the court system and once wrote in a journal that she needed “to work on her story” ahead of the trial, he said.

As McClarnon questioned the victim, she admitted she wrote the phrase but said it didn’t suggest she was lying; instead, therapists helped her practice saying out loud the things Celio had done to her, she said.

Talking with doctors helped her prepare to testify in court, she said.

“It’s hard to face someone who has hurt you,” the girl said.

Proceedings are scheduled to resume Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. in Hancock Circuit Court. The trial is open to the public.

Celio faces two Class A felonies, each of which carries a penalty of 20 to 50 years; one Class B felony, which carries a penalty of six to 20 years; and three Class C felonies, each of which carries a penalty of two to eight years.

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Noelle Steele is editor of the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3232 or nsteele@greenfieldreporter.com.