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By SHAINA STOCKTON
HILLSVILLE — Travis Slusher, 30, of Cana, was found not guilty of two abduction charges and one rape charge, and guilty of carnal knowledge, at a jury trial Jan. 14 in Carroll County Circuit Court.
Slusher was arrested on Aug. 26, 2011, after the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department investigated reports of the abduction and rape of two minors, one under the age of 13.
Three suspects were named when the assaults were reported, according to Carroll County Investigator Donnie Spangler’s testimony at Monday’s trial.
Spangler was assigned to the case. After obtaining statements from both minors and viewing the results of their medical examinations, Spangler went forward with the charges against Slusher.
According to the testimonies of the two minors, they were both abducted by three men, including Slusher. Both said they were put into a car and taken to a trailer, where they said they were repeatedly assaulted over the course of several hours.
They claimed that they had not met Slusher prior to the incident they described.
One minor said that Slusher committed sodomy, an accusation that was not previously mentioned until the preliminary hearing, according to court transcripts and police statements.
After her testimony, one minor identified a tattoo on Slusher’s body.
The testimony of a relative of one of the minors contradicted their statements, saying that he had seen them come home on the night of the alleged attacks. “They were happy,” he told the court. “They went into the back bedroom, and I could hear them giggling and laughing.”
Edgar Dehart, Slusher’s attorney, questioned the minors’ testimonies and pointed out several discrepancies between the two, as well as discrepancies in previous statements.
“Their stories were consistent in general, but not in parts. And as they say, the devil is in the details,” Dehart said.
Slusher testified that he did have a consensual sexual relationship with the older minor, but that he was unaware of her age at the time. “One of the first thing I asked was how old they were,” he said, noting that their answers were 18 and 19. “It was consensual. I never hurt that girl.”
After they visited on two separate occasions, Slusher said that he began a relationship with an older woman that the girl knew. “That is why we are here today,” he told the court. “She was not happy about [the relationship].”
Slusher testified that he was at his home with his roommate one day when a car pulled into their driveway and several men got out. “Three or four big guys fought [Slusher’s roommate],” he said.
Slusher ran to a neighbor’s house for help, and then to his cousin’s house after he received no answer from the neighbor, he said.
Slusher testified that the incident made him aware that a warrant may be out for his arrest, so he called the sheriff’s office to check on the warrant’s status. It was confirmed in court that Slusher turned himself in to police after the warrant was issued.
At the trial, Judge Brett Geisler reminded the jury before deliberation that Slusher was presumed innocent until guilt was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
After deliberating for about an hour, the jury found Slusher not guilty of rape and abduction, but found him guilty of carnal knowledge based on his admission in court of a sexual relationship with a minor.
Slusher was sentenced to two years in jail.
The juveniles testified that two other men were involved in the abduction, but information about these suspects has not been released by the sheriff’s office.