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A Pennsylvania man charged with 15 counts of child molesting and 51 counts of sexual misconduct with a minor for alleged sexual contact with a local girl went to trial Tuesday over the 66 class A and B felonies.
The prosecution contends the case is one of exploitation of a vulnerable girl, but the man’s defense attorney says the girl made up the allegations against a man she was infatuated with and upset over a custody battle.
Whitley County Prosecutor Matt Rentschler said in his opening statements that 36-year-old Dustin W. Shenberger took advantage of the girl — who said she was 13 and 14 when the two had numerous sexual encounters — because of her family situation and tough childhood.
Shenberger, who is related to the alleged victim by marriage, allegedly had sexual contact with her in Pennsylvania and in Whitley County during a two-year period, according to testimony.
“What was a 13-year-old child to do … Dustin Shenberger exploited a very vulnerable child,” Rentschler said.
The alleged victim, now 19, testified the two engaged in sexual contact several times a day while at a rural Whitley County farm where Shenberger traveled to help his family who owned the farm, and the next summer elsewhere in the county.
The husband and wife who own the farm where Shenberger and the alleged victim stayed at the same time on occasion said they both saw the two lying on the couch together one day.
On the occasion they testified to, Shenberger was on his back and the alleged victim was on her stomach, with her head on his chest. Another relative testified she saw the two on the couch on another occasion.
When confronted later, Shenberger and the girl denied anything else had ever occurred between them.
One owner of the farm said he thought it was “ridiculous” that the girl claimed there had been so much contact at the farm, given how many people visit in a day and the busy work schedule.
He and his wife also said the alleged victim was known to not be truthful at all times in the past, usually when it came to her involvement with Shenberger.
For Shenberger’s attorney, Al Anzini, the case is one of a girl who made up the allegations at a time when a custody battle took place for the girl and involved Shenberger and his wife.
Anzini said Shenberger tried to help the alleged victim during a time of a physical abuse in her life from her dad and step-mom and by becoming close to her, she became “infatuated.”
“This is a case of no good deed goes unpunished,” he said.
The contact allegedly occurred in 2005 and 2006, and was reported in 2008 when the girl told her boyfriend at the time and eventually a counselor, who reported it to police.
The trial continues today and may be headed for a verdict by late afternoon.