Ridgway man guilty on all counts in child sexual assault trial
RIDGWAY - A Ridgway man charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old female when he babysat her was convicted on all charges by a 12-member jury at the Elk County Courthouse on Friday. Corey Allen Heatherdale, 26, of Ridgway, admitted to police that he received oral sex from the victim and performed manual copulation on her. In her testimony Friday, the victim, now 18 years old, testified that at the time the abuse began she resided on Front Street in Ridgway with her father, James Dunkle, who knew Heatherdale from the Ridgway Fire Department. The victim testified that her father began a new second shift schedule at a local factory in 2007 and asked Heatherdale to watch her while he was at work. The victim testified that she successfully rejected Heatherdale's initial attempt at sexual contact, in which he attempted to place his hand between her skin and undergarments. She said a few weeks later, while the two were seated near each other on the couch watching a movie, Heatherdale forced her to perform oral sex on him, after which she said she "couldn't bear to look at him." She testified that Heatherdale subsequently forced intercourse on at least five separate occasions. The victim said she did not tell her father or any adults as she feared what the repercussions might be, as she described her father's home as an environment of mental, physical, and emotional abuse. But she said she did confide in classmates at Ridgway Area Middle School, which is how the accusations came to the attention of Officer Bridgette Asti of the Ridgway Borough Police, who was serving as a School Resource Officer for Ridgway schools at the time. In her testimony Friday, Asti said she was first contacted by the middle school counselor regarding the allegations. Asti said she arranged an interview with Heatherdale first, as she wanted to speak with the adult being accused. Heatherdale was first interviewed by police in 2007, at which point he denied any sexual contact with the victim. In December 2009, Heatherdale twice returned to the police station, where he was interviewed by Cpl. Jeff Lee of Punxsutawney State Police. In his Dec. 16 interview, Heatherdale requested to speak with Ridgway Borough Police Senior Officer Shawn Geci, at which point Geci said Heatherdale "apologized to me first for not being truthful." Geci testified on Friday that Heatherdale then admitted to "making out" with the victim and elaborated, saying that she performed oral sex on him and he performed manual copulation on her. Geci said Heatherdale then put his statement in writing on a voluntary statement form. Sentencing of Heatherdale will be scheduled pending the completion of a pre-sentence investigation report.Pick up a copy of the Saturday, July 21, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.