Greene County jurors have convicted a Springfield man accused of kidnapping, raping and sodomizing a 7-year-old-girl in April 2008.
The eight-man, four-woman jury found Jeffery A. Dickson, 39, guilty of child kidnapping, forcible rape and two counts of forcible sodomy. A sentencing hearing on Oct. 23 will determine whether he spends the rest of his life in prison.
Dickson — who’d been relatively sanguine over four days of testimony — stood, stoic, as Greene County Circuit Judge Michael Cordonnier read off the convictions to a packed courtroom.
Dickson will appeal, his public defender said.
Earlier today, attorneys presented their closing arguments to the jury, which deliberated for just over two hours before announcing the verdict.
In his argument, Assistant Greene County Prosecutor Russ Dempsey methodically laid out the evidence against Dickson.
How several witnesses described Dickson being present at the North Kansas Expressway home where an all-night card game was taking place on April 5, 2008. How the girl, now 8, also was there, having been brought by her grandmother.
Dickson allegedly brought the girl Kool-Aid and helped her with the computer at various points. He also allegedly brought a cousin to the West Nichols Street home where the attack later occurred, selling him a TV.
Dempsey recounted the testimony of the alleged victim, who took the stand and described how “Jeff” came to the window of a bedroom she was playing in. He promised her a Barbie doll if she’d come with him, she said.
Dickson then allegedly took the girl to the home at 1024 W. Nichols St. — the owner wasn’t there — raped and sodomized her. He then allegedly choked her to unconsciousness and set the house on fire, an allegation for which he is not charged due to a lack on concrete physical evidence.
“Quite honestly, I don’t care if an accelerant was used,” Dempsey said, referring to fuel investigators believe was used to start the blaze. “I don’t care if he used a blow torch. I don’t care if he started it with a single match. I don’t care if a bolt of lightning struck the house.
“The fact of the matter is that (the girl) was raped and sodomized, then left inside the house when it caught fire.”
Testimony indicated the girl picked Dickson out of a photo lineup after the attack.
Lastly, Dempsey discussed a partial DNA profile found on the girl’s thigh after the attack. Because the sample was scant, analysts were not able to build a full DNA profile.
However, they performed a Y-chromosome test on the swab, and found it matched DNA on Dickson’s Y-chromosome.
That same profile would be found on any male relatives in Dickson’s paternal lineage, the analyst said. Additionally, it might be found in 1-in-3,636 individuals.
Prosecutors argue the coincidence is too great for it to have come from anyone but Dickson.
Public defender Rod Hackathorn, meanwhile, argued the girl had been swayed into believing Dickson was her attacker.
“What this case has been about from the defense standpoint from day one has been whether or not Jeff Dickson committed this crime,” Hackathorn said. “What this case has not been about is whether or not something happened to (the girl).”
He noted the child was the sole eyewitness who could say what happened to her in the early morning hours of April 6, 2008, and pointed out changes in her story from the attack until Dickson’s trial.
Prominent in this argument was the girl’s interview at Springfield’s Child Advocacy Center. Asked if she’d ever seen the man who attacked her in that interview, the girl said she hadn’t seen him until he came to her window.
In testimony, she referred to Dickson by name.
But prosecutors noted the girl described Dickson to her mother as she lay in a hospital bed shortly after the attack. That description allegedly involved a man who’d given her Kool-Aid, and was wearing a “do-rag,” as Dickson was that night.
Hackathorn suggested the girl was swayed by her grandmother, who allegedly had begun to suspect Dickson before she met the girl at the hospital.
“Don’t you think that grandma wanted to give a name?” he said. “Well, Jeff is the easy target. They convicted Jeff as soon as grandma got to the hospital.”
Prior to attorney’s arguments, Greene County Circuit Judge Michael Cordonnier ruled Hackathorn would not be allowed to suggest Dickson’s brother might have carried out the attack.
Hackathorn had planned to argue the brother occasionally hung out at the house from which the girl was abducted, was familiar with the West Nichols Street home where the assault occurred, and lived near the girl’s grandmother.
But Cordonnier ruled “there has been no proof that anyone other than the defendant committed any act connected with this crime.”
“The court is not going to permit that argument,” he said. “To do otherwise would invite the jury to enter into conjecture.”
Hackathorn instead referred to foreign DNA found under the victim’s fingernails after the assault. Analysis of the material found it wasn’t Dickson’s.
Hackathorn suggested that the girl grabbed her attacker’s hands when he choked her, and that the DNA under her fingernails belongs to the perpetrator.
“I know your heart aches for what the little girl went through,” he told jurors. “I know you want to do something for that family. That family wants more than anything for Jeff Dickson to go to prison.
“That’s the easy thing to do: to come back with a guilty verdict. But sometimes the hard thing to do is also the right thing to do.”
In a rebuttal argument, Assistant Greene County Prosecutor Jill Patterson once again summarized the state’s evidence, then posed a question.
“How does a 7-year-old wearing jeans end up with DNA matching a person who did all those suspicious things you heard about that night? she asked. “The person who took an interest in that little girl. The person who was in the same home with her and had been to 1024 West Nichols that evening.
“How does she end up with DNA on her skin matching that person? I submit to you that you know how that DNA got on (the girl).”