Jury: Vancamp is guilty on one count
Testimony began March 24 in the two-day trial of Roger Dale Vancamp, 59, of Middlebourne. Vancamp, a convicted sex offender, was indicted in October 2010 on multiple charges of sexual abuse and two counts of delivery of a controlled substance.
The state presented its opening argument to the jury around 2 p.m.
Prosecuting Attorney Luke Furbee began by telling jurors, “I represent the state of West Virginia and the citizens of Tyler County. It is my duty, in my capacity as prosecutor, to uphold and enforce the laws of this state.”
“This is a case about trust. It is about trust betrayed,” he continued. “Roger Vancamp was entrusted with the welfare of other people’s children, and the truth of this case is, he betrayed that trust.”
Furbee went on to explain the details of the incidents in question, which occurred on two separate occasions and involved two minors, one a relative of the accused.
The first incident occurred on a Thursday in March of last year at the home of Roger Vancamp, and involved a family member. The prosecution stated, “this young woman is going to be very courageous. She is going to testify.”
The young woman, who was 16 at the time of the alleged molestation, informed police approximately 72 hours after the incident occurred that Vancamp had “touched her inappropriately” .
Also scheduled to testify was Vancamp’s other alleged victim, a friend of the first young woman. The teenager had spent the night at the Vancamp home the same weekend as the earlier incident reportedly occurred. The second complaint against Vancamp involved a female aged 15 who was not a relative. This incdent took place in the early hours of Sunday morning. Both the first and second incidents of molestation were reported to police at the same time.
In addition, Furbee informed jurors that another witness, Vancamp’s biological daughter, Amanda Vancamp, would testify for the prosecution.
Ms. Vancamp, who is from Texas, would be in the courtroom to take the stand against her father, and was an earlier victim of sexual abuse at his hands. Vancamp was convicted of the sexual abuse of his daughter several years ago in Texas.
“I ask you to listen very carefully to what these women have to say,” concluded the prosecution.
Attorney John Gainer, counsel for the defense, began his opening statement by reminding jurors that “opening statements are not evidence.”
“This is about two teenage girls who got angry at Roger Vancamp and saw a way to get even,” he stated. “What they are claiming never actually happened.”
“As far as the daughter’s story goes,” he continued, “I don’t believe that its true. But even if you (the jurors) believe that it is true, her testimony can’t be used to determine guilt in this case.”
Gainer went on to conclude by asserting the charges of sexual abuse by a custodian, sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust, and forcible compulsion would not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution. Gainer also maintained that the charges of delivery of a controlled substance were false.
Following opening statements, the prosecution called its first witness to the stand. The witness, Vancamp’s minor relative, was sequestered outside the courtroom prior to giving testimony.
When called, the witness could be heard crying and was visibly upset when she was able to approach the witness stand. She was accompanied to the stand by her guardian ad litem Carolyn Flannery, who remained with the witness during her testimony.
Furbee began with questions about the witness’s age, as well as to her relationship with Vancamp.
“Are you related to Roger?” he queried.
“Yes,” she replied.
The witness’s birth certificate was presented as evidence to the court by the prosecutor as proof of age. There was no objection from the defense.
The state then continued, “Did you have occasion to stay at the Vancamp home during the previous year?”
“Yes,” the witness replied. “I stayed there on weekends, and sometimes through the week. I would help with the animals and hang out in the garage a lot.”
“Were there things you were allowed to do at the Vancamp home that you were not allowed to do otherwise?” continued Furbee.
The witness again became emotional and finally admitted that she was allowed to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol at Vancamp’s home. She also maintained that Roger Vancamp had offered her marijuana, which she had smoked “out of a bowl” with him on the day of the alleged molestation.
Furbee then asked the teen, “Why are we here today?”
Shaking, she answered tearfully, “because Roger touched me inappropriately.”
Furbee then asked the witness to explain what happened the day of the alleged incident.
“I didn’t go to school that day. I had hurt my back,” she replied. “I stayed at Roger’s (house).”
“I was out in the garage with Roger and Bobby (Vancamp’s brother) most of the day. Then Bobby went in the house. I was laying on the couch and Roger came and sat down beside me,” she continued. “He asked to borrow my lighter.”
“When you say that Roger Vancamp touched you inappropriately, what do you mean?” asked Furbee.
“He was rubbing my back underneath my pajamas. I told him it made me uncomfortable,” she answered. The witness went on to tell the court that Vancamp left her alone for a time, then repeated his actions.
“He asked me for another light,” she said. “He sat down beside me again. He started rubbing the inside of my legs.”
The teenager then explained to the court that she had attempted to sleep in the garage that night because she was afraid. “I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “I went to school the next day and told my best friend what had happened.”
“Did your friend accompany you to the Vancamp’s on Friday?” asked the prosecution.
“Yes,” replied the witness. “I told her it wasn’t a very good idea, but she thought nothing would happen if she was there.”
“Why did you stay at the Vacamp’s that weekend?” continued the prosecutor.
“Roger and Sharon (Vancamp’s wife) were having a hog roast.”
“Did you tell your mother what had occurred on Thursday night?” asked Furbee.
“No,” replied the teen. “I didn’t want mom to know anything was wrong. I didn’t want to get Roger into trouble.”
“Have you been back to the Vancamp’s home? Have you talked to them since this incident was reported?” asked Furbee. The witness answered “no.”
“Do you know Vancamp’s daughter, Amanda Vancamp? Have you ever met her?” continued Furbee. The witness denied knowing the daughter or ever meeting her.
Concluding his interview of the teenage witness, Prosecutor Furbee remarked, ” I want to thank you for answering my questions.”
Defense counsel Johh Gainer then began his cross examination of the teenager. He established that the girl’s mother had also permitted her to smoke cigarettes, although when asked, “does mom allow you to drink beer?” the witness denied it.
“Roger knew that you hurt your back,” Gainer remarked. “Was he rubbing your back because he knew you had hurt your back?”
“No,” the teen replied.
“Did he touch your private parts when he was rubbing your back?” Gainer continued.
“He was trying to ‘reach around’ under my pajamas,” the teen answered.
“Why did you decide to stay at Vancamp’s after this alleged incident occurred?” the defense asked.
“I felt secure because people were there. My best friend was there,” she replied. “She (best friend) thought she could prevent it happening again.”
Gainer then went on to explore the subject of smoking marijuana with Vancamp.
“How did you know it was marijuana?” he asked the teen. She replied she didn’t know, but that Vancamp had told her it was marijuana.
“How did it make you feel?” he continued. “Weird,” she replied. The defense had no more questions for the teen.
Next to testify was the second alleged victim, who also was accompanied to the witness stand by the guardian ad litem. Once again, Prosecutor Furbee established the age and birthdate for the court record, entering another birth certificate as evidence. The second witness was 15 at the time of her alleged molestation by Vancamp.
It was brought out in court by the prosecution that Vancamp had also provided beer and marijuana to the second teen.
“Why were you at the Vancamp’s?” asked Furbee.
“There was a hog roast that weekend. He (Vancamp) is my best friend’s uncle.”
The second teen went on to tell her version of the events at the Saturday hog roast. She stated that there were several people at the Vancamp’s throughout the day. She and Vancamp’s minor relative had “hung out in the garage with Roger until midnight or later.”
“When did you go to bed?” asked the prosecutor. “Around midnight,” the second teen replied.
“Was anyone else in the living room?” he continued.
“Roger’s wife was in the bedroom. (The first teen) was sleeping in the recliner. I slept on the couch,” answered the witness.
“What happened then?” asked Furbee.
“Roger came in and turned on the light in the living room. He sat between my legs and started rubbing my right butt cheek. I just laid there. I was scared.”
“He was rubbing my breast, squeezing it,” she continued.
The teen then informed the court that Vancamp had made a sexual comment to her. “I got up off the couch and told him to go to bed,” the witness said. “I went to the bathroom and put on my ‘hoodie’. I came back out and told him to go to bed again.”
The witness said that Vancamp then left her alone. She said she got “very little sleep” that night and woke up around 8:30 a.m.
The witness then told the court she informed (the minor relative) what had taken place, then called her grandmother, who came and picked up both teens.
“Have you ever been back there? Had any contact? Talked to anyone?” asked the prosecutor.
“No,” the teen replied. The prosecution had no further questions, and turned the witness over to Mr. Gainer for cross examination.
“Weren’t you afraid to stay at Vancamp’s, knowing what had happened before?” he asked. “No, I thought I’d be safe.”
“Did Mr. Vancamp use threats or force against you?” The teen replied that he had not.
“Wasn’t Sharon Vancamp in the living room that night, on the computer?” the defense inquired. “No, she was not in the room when I fell asleep,” replied the witness.
“How long did this alleged incident go on?” asked Gainer.
The teen replied that it had gone on for 10 or 15 minutes. “I was scared, really scared,” she said.
Next to take the stand were the mother of the first victim and the father of the second victim.
The mother of the first victim told the court that Vancamp “assured me that (my daughter) would be raised like one of his own children.”
“I trusted him (Vancamp) with my whole heart,” the witness admitted.
Testimony from the mother covered what had transpired after the two girls were picked up on Sunday. The mother of the girl said she called 911 “immediately” after talking to the girls and that police came out “and took a statement.”
She also informed the court that they had spoken with the Child Advocate. She confirmed that her daughter was “very scared of my reaction” and thought “I’d be very upset with her.”
“What kind of impact has this incident had on your daughter?” questioned Furbee.
“She doesn’t sleep. She’s depressed. She doesn’t want to go to school. She cries all the time. She was very happy and outgoing, before this happened.”
The father of the second teen said he had met Vancamp “a couple of times” and had spoken on the phone with him.
“What did you expect to happen while your daughter was at the Vancamp home?” asked the prosecution.
“I expected him to be an adult, take care of everything, and treat her good,” replied the girl’s father. “I told my daughter (after the incident) that she wasn’t in trouble, she had done nothing wrong. She was right to report what happened.”
The prosecution and the defense next took testimony from the responding officers, Deputy J.K. Maston and Deputy D.S. Dalrymple, who conducted a search of the Vancamp property and took statements from the teenage girls. A small amount of what was believed to be marijuna was found, along with a small pipe, in a coffee can in the garage.
The defense wanted to know why the substance found in the garage, alleged to be marijuana, was not tested by the state forensic laboratory. The officer explained that there was not enough of the substance to be tested. “Vancamp admitted that he smoked marijuana,” explained Deputy Maston, who was on the stand. “He said he never gave it to anyone else, that nobody else in the home smoked it.”
Next witness for the prosecution was Amanda Vancamp, daughter of Roger Vancamp. Judge David W. Hummel, Jr., gave the jurors limiting instructions before hearing her testimony. “This evidence is collateral evidence, and is not to be used for determining guilt in this case,” he said. “It may be used to determine if Roger Vancamp has a lustful disposition towards children, however.”
After establishing that Ms. Vancamp had grown up in Texas with her mother and biological father, Roger Vancamp, Prosecuting Attorney Luke Furbee then asked, “What kind of relationship did you have with your father?”
“Not a good one,” replied Ms. Vancamp.
“Why is that?” continued Furbee.
“There was sexual abuse. There was physical abuse,” she replied matter-of-factly. “It began when I was about seven (years old).”
“How did it begin?” asked the prosecution.
“At first, it was touching. Fondling my breast and bottom. It started on top of my clothes,” she replied.
“When did this behavior happen?” questioned Furbee.
“When he was drunk, mostly. He was drunk quite a bit,” she explained.
“Did it stop there?” continued Furbee.
“No,” she replied tersely. “It progressed.”
She went on to state that Vancamp had forced her into having oral sex at the age of nine or 10. “I used to sleep with my sister, to try to stop him. But he’d get me out of bed.”
At age 14, Vancamp attempted to rape her in the presence of one of her friends. The friend’s parents called authorities and reported the abuse, which had been ongoing from the ages of seven through 14. Vancamp was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to the charges.
Ms. Vancamp then testified that she had returned to West Virginia, where her father was residing, when she was 18 years old.
“I wanted to confront him. I walked up to him and asked him why he had abused me,” she said. “He told me he did it because I was there. Mom wasn’t there, and I was.”
“I told him he was a sorry piece of **** and I hoped he’d die,” she finished.
When cross examined by the defense, Ms. Vancamp was asked if she had sent a letter to her cousin (first teen’s mother) denying the abuse. Ms. Vancamp denied the accusation. She also denied informing anyone else that she had changed her story about the abuse she had endured from her father.
“Didn’t you move out of your parent’s house when you were 14?” asked the defense. “Didn’t you prefer that to living at home?”
“I didn’t have the abuse, so yes,” she answered.
In re-direct, the prosecution asked, “There’s been some suggestion that you expressed that these acts never happened. When you moved out at 14. Where was your father?”
“In jail,” the witness replied. “I believe he was in jail for the abuse. He pleaded guilty. I didn’t have to go to the trial.”
The state rested its case after Ms. Vancamp’s testimony concluded. The defense then asked that counts two and five, which concerned forcible compulsion, be dismissed, as well as counts seven and eight, which concerned delivery of a controlled substance.
The prosecution argued that counts two, five and eight should remain, but agreed that count seven may be dismissed. The judge dismissed count eight against the defendant.
The defense then recalled the mother of the first teen to the stand.
“Did you receive a letter from Amanda Vancamp that stated Roger Vancamp had not committed the sexual offenses against her?” he inquired.
“Absolutely not,” replied the mother.
“Did you know that Roger Vancamp was a classified as a sexual offender?” he continued.
“Yes,” the mother replied. “Roger said he had a letter saying that Amanda lied and that his record was going to be expunged, but I never saw any such letter.”
The defense then called Roger Vancamp to the stand to testify in his own behalf.
“You were convicted of sexually abusing your daughter?” asked Gainer.
“I wasn’t convicted. I pleaded guilty,” replied Mr. Vancamp. “I had been in jail for four and a half months. My mother died. I wanted to get out of jail. So I pleaded to the charges.”
“Did you in fact abuse your daughter?” asked Gainer.
“No,” replied Vancamp.
“You are accused of sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust,” commented Gainer. “Were you in charge of (the first teenager)?”
“No,” replied Vancamp. “I couldn’t be. I am a convicted sexual offender.”
Vancamp then relayed his version of the first incident, claiming that after the minor relative had injured her back, she had awakened in pain. She called her mother, who gave permission for the teen to stay out of school.
“She raised her shirt up, and I ran my hand straight up and down her back,” Vancamp said. “But that was early in the morning, on Friday.”
The night before, said Vancamp, he had gotten the teen a blanket, covered her up, “patted her on the head,” and said good night.
Vancamp then went on to details of the hog roast held on Saturday. “There was a big turn-out, a lot of people there,” he said. “It was mostly friends and relatives.”
Vancamp then told the court that on the previous evening he had caught “some boy” sitting on the couch between the two girls in question.
“He was sitting there with his hands on each of their legs, and I thought he was behaving inappropriately. I told him to leave. He made no objection, but some other little girl said, that’s okay, we’ll get even.”
Going back to the evening of the hog roast, Vancamp maintained that he had gone to bed much later than the girls, around 4 a.m. He stated that his wife, Sharon, was sitting at the kitchen table when he went to bed.
“She was on the computer, playing one of those games. She does that every night,” he added.
“Did you sit on the couch?” asked the defense. “No, replied Vancamp.
“Did you touch (the second teen) in a sexual way?” questioned Gainer.
“No, sir,” replied Vancamp.
“Did you ever give the girls marijuana?” continued Gainer.
“No,” replied Vancamp. “I smoke once in a while. I have a depression problem. If I think I can’t sleep, I smoke it. But I didn’t give it to anyone else.”
Prosecuting attorney Luke Furbee then began his cross examination, first establishing Vancamp’s age (59) and entering his birth certificate into evidence.
“You agree that you were accused by your daughter that you sexually abused her in Texas?” queried Furbee.
“Yes,” replied Vancamp.
“You pleaded guilty to those charges?” continued the prosecutor.
“Yes,” Vancamp affirmed. “I had been incarcerated for so long, waiting for a court hearing. My mother passed away. I couldn’t get out to go to the funeral.”
“In fact, you didn’t get to go home to West Virginia at that time, did you?” questioned Furbee.
“No,” admitted Vancamp.
The prosecution then addressed the subject of being a person in a position of trust. “You say you can’t be in charge (of the girls) because of your status, but that isn’t the case. You contacted (the first teen’s mother) about her daughter’s care, didn’t you?” Vancamp agreed that the statement was correct.
“In fact, you gave her chores to do, correct?” The defendant stated that he did in fact give the teen chores.
Next the prosecution queried Vancamp about the alleged boy and girl who had been at the Vancamp home.
“What were there names?” asked Furbee.
“I don’t know,” answered Vancamp. “The girl was from up on the hill. I think she has moved out of state.”
“Why would this girl say she would get even with you, when you don’t even know who she is?” asked the prosecution. Vancamp claimed that the girl was friends with the girls he allegedly molested.
“Why would (the first teen) accuse you of touching her? She enjoyed being in your home. She obviously was upset about testifying today,” the prosecution continued.
” She could turn it on and turn it off,” remarked Vancamp. “She could turn on the tears, then turn on the good side, then turn mean, just like that.” Vancamp snapped his fingers.
“Well, if that’s the case, why was she allowed to visit in your home?” asked Furbee.
“She was growing out of her mean streak,” Vancamp answered.
The prosecution next questioned Vancamp about the alleged marijuana use. Vancamp maintained that he did not give marijuana to either girl. “It’s not something that goes on, it’s not something that I do,” asserted Vancamp. He also maintained that the marijuana found in the garage had been left by someone who had attended the hog roast.
As the prosecution concluded his questioning, he asked Vancamp, “Why would the girls make up lies?”
Vancamp stated that he didn’t understand what was going on.
Sharon Vancamp, Roger Vancamp’s wife, took the stand next. She testified that she had been in the living room “the entire night” of the second incident. She also asserted that Roger had come in and went directly to bed, and that she had gone to bed approximately fifteen minutes later. Both girls were asleep in the living room at the time.
“Was Mr. Vancamp allowed to be alone with the girls?” asked the prosecution.
“No, he didn’t want to be alone with them,” replied Mrs. Vancamp. “There was always someone (else) around.”
Mrs. Vancamp told the courtroom that she “never” slept through the night “since I was a little kid.” She said she had woken up about every two hours the night of the alleged assault.
“Roger was in bed the whole time,” she stated. “I’m a light sleeper. I have two dogs that always bark. I would have known if he had gotten up.”
Robert “Bobby” Vancamp, brother of the accused, took the stand last. He stated that his memory of the details of the weekend was confused. He told the court that he had had a stroke and it had affected his memory. He did not seem to recall speaking to the deputy who questioned him. He also maintained that the family had never discussed the case with him in the past year. The defense then rested its case.
Judge Hummel addressed he jury before closing arguments were given by prosecution and defense attorneys Furbee and Gainer.
“It is the duty of the court to instruct you in the law as it applies to this case,” he explained. “You must render a verdict only on the evidence and the law presented. You may not speculate. You must be unswayed by pity or sympathy.”
“At the beginning of this trial, I told you this was a case about trust betrayed. Roger Vancamp was trusted to look out for those young ladies,” Furbee addressed the jurors. “Roger Vancamp chose to use this trust for his treacherous agenda.
“The worst part of my job is to require a child to come into this court and go through what those girls just went through,” he added. “The girls were here because I required them to be here.”
“It’s my job, my duty to enforce the laws of the state, and to prosecute those who trample those laws. Roger Vancamp trampled the law of the state. He trampled the law of nature.”
“I ask you, the jury, to render a verdict that is just. If you believe the evidence, if you believe the girls, I submit to you, you must give the defendant what he deserves: a verdict of guilty,” concluded Furbee.
Defense Attorney John Gainer then addressed the jury. “The girls started this, and it snowballed. A little white lie became the basis of these accusations.”
“Roger Vancamp was falsely accused and falsely arrested,” argued Gainer, “when he lived in Texas. He pleaded guilty as a matter of convenience.”
“Were the victims tears in this courtroom real?” he asked the jurors. “Roger Vancamp said she could turn them on and turn them off. Was she crying because of what happened, or because she had to continue to lie?”
“Anyone can be falsely accused,”Gainer continued. “People lie. It happens all the time. Sharon and Bobby say this incident didn’t happen. You have no reason not to believe their statements.”
In rebuttal, Furbee told the court, “We live in a blame-shifting society. Blame the parents, blame the girls. They are not to blame. Motives in these cases are always covered by silence and secrecy. These cases are the most difficult to try, and to understand. I ask you to look at the evidence and find a verdict that is right, and just, and which the law requires.”
After deliberating for over 4-1/2 hours, the jury came back with a verdict. Judge David W. Hummel, Jr. admonished those present in the courtroom, stating “there will be no outbursts from any person, no matter what the verdict. Anyone who disrupts the court will be held in contempt.”
The courtroom was quiet as the verdict was read. Family members from both sides of the case remained silent as the clerk announced the jury’s decision.
“Count two, guilty,” read the clerk. “Count three, not guilty. Count four, not guilty. Count five, not guilty. County six, not guilty. Count eight, not guilty.”
The guilty verdict on count two (sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust) carries a sentence of not less than ten, nor more than twenty years in prison. Vancamp was remanded to custody upon the reading of the verdict. The not guilty verdicts included sexual abuse in the first degree (two counts) sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust (two counts) and delivery of a controlled substance(one count.)
Judge Hummel addressed the jury and thanked them for an admirable job. The court stood in recess.
Prosecuting Attorney Luke Furbee commented on the conclusion of the trial, saying “I am satisfied that we were able to uphold the law with honor and secure justice in this case.”
“Child sexual abuse cases are absolutely the hardest cases to investigate, prosecute, try and live with personally for all involved,” he continued. “As I’ve said before, they are cases of silence and secrecy, and overwhelming, tangible evidence is not a reality in such cases.”
“I believe the jurors in this case were attentive, concerned, and that they rendered just verdicts,” he stated, adding, “I have no problem with the decisions on the other counts. We respect the verdicts of juries without question. That is consistent with our Constitution and system of justice.”