Cross examination by defense team concludes victim testimony in beach assault

After Fisher was apprehended, the victim identified him as her attacker based on the shape of his chest and torso.

The trial of Charles F. Fisher, who stands accused of attempted rape and murder of an Edmonds woman on a deserted section of beach last summer, continued Friday with the prosecution completing the victim’s direct testimony, and cross-examination by Fisher’s defense team.

The final questions by prosecutor Matthew Baldock helped round out the previous day’s testimony and included cell phone evidence showing a series of text messages exchanged between the victim and her husband prior to the attack. In these messages she shared photos taken during her beach walk and discussed dinner plans for the coming evening.

Baldock also asked questions about the attack itself, specifically focusing on when the attacker was trying to pull the victim into the water.

“I was face down on the ground with my head away from the water as he was trying to drag me in,” she testified. “I got soaked from the knees down in the shallow water, and it was at this point that I managed to break free and started running north along the beach.”

Asked specific questions about the attacker, she stated that she “had never seen him before,” and that she saw no indication that he’d been drinking or taking drugs. “He didn’t seem impaired in any way,” she said.

Baldock then asked if she was impaired in a way that might affect her judgment or ability to clearly recall events, and she responded that she was not.

He followed this with several questions intended to clarify why she thought the attacker was intending to rape and kill her. She responded that it was a combination of words and actions.

“He said that he wanted to f*** me, tore my top and was fumbling with my shorts,” she responded. “Then he told me that he’d changed his mind and that he was going to kill me, that he was going to drown me, and proceeded to pull me toward the water.”

The prosecutor concluded his examination with questions about how the attack had affected the victim’s life in the ensuing months.

Saying that she “needs to get her sense of safety back,” the victim testified that it caused difficulties in her job as a nanny to a family for whom she’s worked for many years. She described having “panic attacks,” especially when out with the children in her charge and strangers pass by, and that this combined with a general heightened level of fear ultimately led to the decision to leave her job. She also related how the residual effects of the attack have led to strain in her marriage, and feelings of being unsafe at home alone.

Cross examination by Fisher’s defense lawyers centered on clarifying potential inconsistencies in her earlier testimony, her personal written account of the attack and events leading up and subsequent to it, and statements she made to police.

The first series of questions centered on a personal account that the victim had written immediately after the attack. Calling this a “personal diary,” the victim related that she’d written it only for herself. But when she later mentioned to police that she had done this, they directed her to turn it over and make it part of the permanent record. She complied despite her reluctance to do so because “what I wrote was for my personal use and was full of misspellings, cuss words and very personal observations. It was kind of stream of consciousness, and I never intended it to be read by anyone but myself.”

Saying he’d gone over the diary “many times” and found no mention of attempted rape, defense attorney Paul Thompson asked about it and the basis for her attempted rape assumption.

Responding that she did write that her attacker told her that “he wants to f*** me,” she said that this combined with the physical beating convinced her that he indeed intended to rape her.

Further probing the question of the attacker’s intent or lack thereof, and referring to the transcript of her statement to the police, Thompson asked about her statement to the police in which the victim said that “there was nothing sexual in the initial attack,” to which the victim responded that she only assumed he was trying to rape her when he directly said that “he wants to f*** me.”

Moving to the victim’s examination by Swedish-Edmonds emergency room staff, Thompson asked for specific information about which parts of her body were examined and to what extent. The victim could only respond that by the time she reached the ER she was “severely traumatized” and doesn’t have a clear recollection of those specifics.

Thompson concluded his cross-examination with questions about the victim’s level of certainty in identifying Fisher as her attacker immediately subsequent to his apprehension at the scene, citing her initial statement that at first she wasn’t sure it was the same person. She responded that he was wearing different clothing when she was asked to make the identification, and that once she asked police to have Fisher remove his shirt, she was indeed “certain” that he was the man who attacked her.

On redirect, prosecutor Matthew Baldock referenced the personal account she had written, and asked if she’d had a chance to re-read it. She explained that she didn’t see it again until the police emailed her a transcript earlier this week. Asked by Baldock if there is anything she now remembers differently, she responded, “No, I was really surprised how accurate it is.”

This concluded the victim’s testimony, and she was dismissed by Judge Bowden.

The prosecution’s presentation will include testimony by additional witnesses including the victim’s husband. The defense team had no comment when asked if Fisher would testify. The trial is expected to continue into next week.

— Story and photo by Larry Vogel

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