Dressed in a pink sweater, lime green skirt and looking more mature than her 7 years, a Philadelphia girl who was abducted last year from her kindergarten and raped repeatedly testified Wednesday in a hushed courtroom about her 19-hour ordeal.
From the witness stand, the child avoided making eye contact with her alleged rapist and kidnapper, 21-year-old Christina Regusters, who worked in the daycare at Bryant Elementary School.
The child, who was five at the time of the attack, testified that she left school with a stranger on Jan. 13, 2013, because she thought the woman was her mom.
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“I thought it was my mom,” the victim said, because the kidnapper was dressed in Muslim garb and wearing a veil.
The child testified that after they left the school, the woman told her to throw her book bag in the trash as they walked down the street. The child said when they reached the home, she realized the woman was not her mom because she was no longer wearing the veil.
The girl said she was placed in a laundry bag and carried into the house, blindfolded, put in a closet and then hidden naked underneath a bed. She said a woman, a teen and a "bad man" were at the house. She was shown pictures of that man on a phone, she said.
Prosecutors, however, believe Regusters acted alone. The defense has argued that police have the wrong suspect.
Prosecutor Erin O'Brien asked the child if she had ever seen or smelled a boy in the house. The child answered no. She said she was shown a photo of white man on a cell phone, and was told by a girl named China that he was in the house.
During the testimony, O’Brien pulled up a chair next to the witness stand to question the child, who was polite, composed and gave “Yes” or “No” answers to many of the questions. When asked about details of the attack, she often said, “I don’t remember.” Regusters rarely looked up at the child.
Jurors got more details from one-on-one conversations between the victim and her mother that the mother recorded on her iPhone in the days and weeks following the attack.
On the recordings, she is heard reassuring her daughter, whom she called "Pooh." In one conversation, her daughter said she wished she had an iPhone to take a photo of the captor's house. "Don't get upset," her mother said. "You remember so much. You are telling me so many things. We are going to find these dang-gone people." The mother took those recordings to police.
The victim's mother also took the stand earlier in the day with emotional testimony and pictures. She described how the attack changed her daughter's life forever.
The victim has undergone reconstructive surgeries and wore a colostomy bag for months following the vicious attack.
She's doing much better and is a happy child, the girl's mother said.