A woman who claims a suspended Atlantic City fire captain sexually assaulted her as a teen testified Monday about how the abuse began nearly 18 years ago.
Roderick Knox, 47, was acquitted in October of similar charges that, in 2010, he had sex with his then-15-year-old foster daughter. That investigation moved detectives to reopen a 1995 case involving a then-13-year-old girl identified only as S.W.
The alleged victim, now 30, testified on the first day of Knox’s second trial Monday, saying she had gone to baby sit the toddler daughter of the Knoxes, who were her neighbors at Oakcrest Estates in Hamilton Township at the time.
Instead, Knox sat down next to her on the couch in a towel, rubbed her leg and then asked her to massage his genitals. She said she did, and that’s when he had her go to the bedroom, undress and he performed sexual acts on her, she testified.
The two never had intercourse, she said.
She recalled, instead, one incident in which Knox was on top of her naked: “I flinched and he said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to have sex with you. You’re too young.’”
But the defense questioned why the state chased down the case in which another man already has served prison time after admitting he sexually abused the girl. That man, Michael Applewhite, admitted to the abuse in 1997, a day after the girl tried to kill herself and told her then-boyfriend about the assaults. He was sentenced to five years in prison in 1998.
It was Applewhite who first told investigators about Knox. But at that time, S.W. insisted that Knox had grabbed her butt, and then touched her private areas over her clothes, but stopped when she told him she felt uncomfortable.
S.W. said she didn’t give the full story at that time because she saw the problems it caused Applewhite’s family and didn’t want to put another family through that.
But when a detective went to her North Carolina home in 2010, she said it was time to tell the whole story.
“It’s a part of my life I need to no longer be afraid of,” she told defense attorney Stephen Funk during cross-examination.
The jury has not been informed about the 2010 allegation or the acquittal. They were told only that “a separate, unrelated investigation” led to the reopening of the case.
This is “a closed case brought back to life because the victim told another story that is inconsistent to other stories she has told in the past,” Funk told the jurors during his opening statement.
But Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer had a different take.
“Why now? Why today?” he asked in his opening. “Because (S.W.) has the strength she didn’t have as a young girl.”
The state will continue presenting its case Tuesday before Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury.
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