Woman Convicted Of Making Young Girl Lie About Assault
WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne woman accused of concocting a story with her boyfriend to win a custody dispute by having a 6-year-old girl lie about being sexually abused was convicted at trial Thursday.
After about two hours of deliberations, a jury convicted Michelle McGrath-Fenstermacher, 42, of 597 Bennett St., of corruption of minors, conspiring to make a false child abuse report and making a false report.
“What this defendant did is the most despicable thing a person can do to a parent and a child,” Assistant District Attorney Nancy Violi said after the verdict. “We are very pleased with the outcome of the case and grateful to the jury for helping to make things right for this little girl and her mother.”
Kingston police began investigating after Craig Joseph Hardik, 44, of Forty Fort, and McGrath-Fenstermacher brought the girl to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Twp. to be examined for signs of sexual assault on Nov. 16, 2016.
Hardik reported that he had been at a pizza restaurant when McGrath-Fenstermacher — a married woman he had been staying with — informed him that his daughter had something to say. Despite claiming not to know what was about to happen, Hardik began recording as his daughter described being molested, the charges alleged.
The girl told Hardik and, later, investigators that her mother — who shared custody with Hardik — would wait nearby while her mother’s boyfriend touched her in places she described as “down under” and “Australia,” the complaint says.
During subsequent interviews, McGrath-Fenstermacher and Hardik both claimed the girl had come forward with allegations about being touched, prosecutors said.
But police say Hardik never appeared upset about his daughter being sexually assaulted, and that text messages between him and McGrath-Fenstermacher from the time they were at the pizza restaurant were missing from his phone.
During a subsequent interview with Luzerne County Children and Youth caseworkers, the girl admitted that she had been told to lie and did so because she wanted to live with her father and McGrath-Fenstermacher.
“They think (the boyfriend) touched (her) but he really didn’t,” a police affidavit quotes the girl as saying to caseworkers.
Confronted with the conflicting evidence, Hardik subsequently admitted the allegations were a lie he and McGrath-Fenstermacher came up with so he could get custody of his daughter, prosecutors said. At first they didn’t know exactly what the story would be, just that it would ensure he got custody, he told police.
McGrath-Fenstermacher, who Hardik met at a bus stop, got involved because she wanted another child but was unable to have one, so she decided to take on the role of the girl’s mother, according to prosecutors.
Following a three-day trial during which Hardik testified against his former paramour, a jury on Thursday found McGrath-Fenstermacher guilty on all counts.
Vough ordered McGrath-Fenstermacher to have no contact with the victims or Hardik as part of her bail conditions pending sentencing Aug. 3.
Hardik previously pleaded guilty to making false reports and conspiring to make a false report of child abuse. He is set to be sentenced next week.
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