ARMSTRONG - What began as a cordial conversation between two strangers hiding out from the rain at an Armstrong church took a sinister turn when the man pinned the woman against a wall, sexually assaulted her, and threatened to strangle her if she resisted.
The woman, in her early 20s, was scared and hesitant at first to report the incident, but at her boyfriend’s insistence, she resolved that notifying police was the right thing to do. An ensuing police investigation ultimately led to the arrest of Joseph Vance Caron, 46, from Armstrong. Almost a year after the May 27 incident, Supreme Court Justice Gary Weatherill convicted him of sexual assault, choking, and uttering a threat.
The woman, whose name and identity are protected by court order, says she went out for a walk around 10:30 p.m. and took shelter under the back roof of a church when it began to rain. A man appeared and asked her for a cigarette, she said. They both began to smoke, and make small talk. He offered her a drink of beer but she declined. She said he seemed somewhat intoxicated because his speech was slurred and he seemed to have trouble remembering things.
Suddenly, the man pinned her up against the wall of the church. She squirmed to get away, but he threatened to strangle her. She tried to call for help, but he took her phone away, put it in his pocket and proceeded to sexually assault her. Her boyfriend had been worried she was gone so long and had texted her during the assault.
“During the sexual assault, she recalls the man saying that he was recording it with his phone and that he wanted her to agree that it was consensual and that she was enjoying it,” Weatherill said.
When it was over, he gave her phone back and she walked home. Police launched an investigation immediately and retrieved cigarettes and a beer can from the scene, both of which contained Caron’s DNA.
In his testimony, Caron admitted to stopping and talking with the complainant, but denied ever touching her.
Judge Weatherill said Caron’s version of events simply “did not ring true.” In his judgement, he said the accused was nervous in the witness stand and that his story did not stand up to scrutiny.
Weatherill noted the complainant deals with a mental condition that causes her to lag behind her age by several years, but said her testimony was careful, perceptive and forthright.
“It was hard for her to talk about what happened but she was able to describe what occurred in vivid detail,” Weatherill said.
Caron will be sentenced for the crime at a future date. He was acquitted on a charge of unlawful confinement.
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