MARIETTA - After two hours of deliberation Wednesday, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty for Larry Blair, 53, in his second trial in the last month on a charge of rape.
The victim expressed disbelief at the verdict.
"They were caught in so many lies. I just can't believe the verdict," she said tearfully.
Photo by Jasmine Rogers
Defendant Larry Blair took the stand on Wednesday to recap his version of events on the night he was accused of raping his 38-year-old niece. The case was retried this week after a hung jury forced a mistrial three weeks ago.
Blair, who lived in Lowell at the time, was accused of rape in February by his 38-year-old niece. The victim testified Tuesday that after a night of drinking on Feb. 10, she had returned to her uncle's Lowell residence under the pretense that a party was happening there. However, only Blair's brother, Daniel "Jake" Blair, was home.
According to the victim, Larry told his brother to go to bed and proceeded to hold her down, rip of her clothes and have sex with her.
Jake Blair took the stand Wednesday and told jurors he had foreseen the two having sex and warned Larry against it.
"I told him I wouldn't do what he was about to do," testified Jake.
Larry and Jake gave statements to the police the day after the event saying that absolutely no sexual contact occurred. Jake called officers weeks later to change his statement.
"I told them there wasn't no rape. They were having sex," said Jake.
Prosecuting attorney Jared Erb questioned the changing stories of the brothers and asked the jury to look at the consistent story that the victim put forth.
"The victim in this case sat here on the witness stand and told you what happened," said Erb during closing statements.
For the defense, attorney Ray Smith argued the victim had consented to the sex, but regretted it upon sobering up.
"Now reality is setting in. 'Oh my god. I just had sex with my uncle. What is my dad going to do?'" said Smith playing out his version of events for the jury.
The prosecution called the victim's father to the stand Tuesday. The victim had contacted her father soon after the event and he testified to her emotional state, said Erb.
The defense used his testimony to paint a motive for the victim to lie, reminding jurors that he had testified that he would disown his daughter if he had thought the encounter was consensual.
The victim's father was not called to the stand when the case was tried for the first time, just three weeks ago. That trial resulted in a hung jury which forced Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Susan Boyer to declare a mistrial.
During the first trial, the majority of the jury opted for a not guilty verdict, said Erb.
"The first jury voted 10 to 2 for acquittal," Smith verified.
The case posed problems because it was based almost exclusively on witness testimony, Erb said.
"It is just a difficult case when it is one word against the other," he said.
The defense called an additional witness the second time around. On Wednesday, Larry's cousin, Gary Antill, testified that he had once seen the victim with Larry at The Four Seasons bar in Marietta. From the way there were dancing he had come to the assumption that they were a couple, said Antill.
"After I found out it was our relation I thought it was kind of strange," he said.
Antill could not recall the date so it was not verified that he had seen them on the night of the event.
Blair, who had been in custody since his arrest on July 29, was released after the verdict was read.
Smith said he was elated with the jury's decision. The defendant cried when the verdict was read, Smith added.