The panel in Judge William P. Mahon’s courtroom deliberated just over 2½ hours before returning their verdict on the large majority of the more than 170 criminal counts against Warren Yerger Sr., finding that he had raped, sodomized, molested, and abused the children over a period of more than 20 years.
The prosecution, led by Deputy District Attorney Deborah Ryan, had asserted in closing the trial that Yerger was a “monster,” who groomed and preyed on the children, and that there was overwhelming evidence to convict him.
“It is finally time to give those victims a voice,” Ryan told the jury in an emotional and forceful 80-minute-long closing argument. “The defendant violated the little bodies of little children … and he needs to be held accountable.”
There was no immediate reaction in the courtroom when the verdict was read by the court clerk around 5:45 p.m. Yerger was led from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies, and will be returned to Mahon’s courtroom for sentencing at a future date. Because of the serious nature of the charges against him, he faces the possibility of decades behind bars.
“I believe you all should be sent straight to heaven for having to listen to all of this,” said defense attorney Laurence Harmelin in his closing argument to the panel Monday, referring to the testimonies from the four alleged victims. “It’s upsetting to anyone with a heart.”
“I, too, want to thank you,” echoed Ryan in her own address to the seven men and five women who decided Yerger’s guilt later in the day. “I know it was very difficult to sit here and listen.”
Both attorneys said that what Yerger was alleged to have done was “disgusting” — sexually abusing the four children from the time they were infants until they were in their teens, sometimes daily, and in Ryan’s words, in “demeaning” and “humiliating” ways. But the attorneys differed when it came to arguing whether that testimony could be believed as truth, or whether there was a reason for the panel to discount it as manufactured by angry witnesses.
|Deborah Anne Keeley|
Yerger, 52, who lived in Berks County at the time of his arrest, faced more than 170 counts of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, and related charges for his alleged molestation of the four children between 1989 and 2012, when one of the victims alerted a college professor to what had happened and police began investigating.
"Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse" - I had to Google that. Apparently the 'involuntary' part is that of the child or victim. In other words, 'deviate sex without agreement".
Yerger, who was a security guard and lived in four counties — Chester, Montgomery, Berks, and McLean — during the time the alleged crimes occurred, took the stand in his own defense on Friday and maintained he had never molested or abused the children, and that they made up their accounts of what he did to repay him for grudges they held against him.
But Ryan, in her 90-minute summation, asked the jury to consider what any of the children would have stood to gain by accusing Yerger of the abuse. She noted that each had testified that they were reluctant to come forward, that they did not want to testify about what happened, and that they still felt some affection for Yerger.
“This was not easy for them,” said Ryan, who heads the DA’s Child Abuse Unit, praising them for their courage in coming forward. “It was painful for these victims to come in here and tell you what happened and relive it as best they could.”
“This was 23 years of abuse,” she said. “Twenty-three years of torture for these kids. This was their routine. This was their life behind closed doors. At nighttime when other children were safely tucked in their beds, they were living a real-life nightmare with that man (Yerger).”
“He took away their dignity,” she said. “He stole their innocence, and he deprived them of their childhoods.”
Ryan went through a detailed, and sometimes graphic description of what each of the witnesses said had happened to them. She said Yerger would begin with mild fondling of the children — three girls and a boy, each of them now in their 20s — and escalate it into what became known as “nightly prayers.”
|"His depravity knows no bounds"|
“His depravity knows no bounds,” Ryan said of Yerger.
But in Yerger’s defense, Harmelin asked the panel to consider several instances of inconsistencies their stories contained, and times when what they said contradicted other witnesses.
“This was only disgusting and vile and out of this world if it was true,” he said. “What you have to decided is whether it happened. I do not want him convicted of sexual offenses if he didn’t do them.”
Harmelin said that because there was no physical evidence for the jurors to consider, “This whole case is words, essentially. It is a spitting contest,” with stories that “strain belief.” He pointed to greeting cards that the victims had sent to Yerger over the years, telling them they loved him on his birthday. “If what they said is true, would anybody love him?”
“It doesn’t add up,” Harmelin said. “It doesn’t make sense. I believe we have shown a reasonable doubt, and that the prosecution has not proven their case.”
Leslie Yerger, who testified against her husband, will be sentenced at a later date, as will Keeley, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to the massive number of charges against her, but did not agree to testify.
How many 'families' are out there that live like this? It's positively scary. There are many similarities with the three degenerates in Las Vegas. Good grief!