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Donegal sexual assault suspect testifies

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Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

A 52-year-old Donegal man accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl testified he signed a written confession because he believed it was the only way to stop an hour-long interview with a state trooper.

“After I argued with him for 45 minutes that I didn't (do it), I would have told him anything to leave me alone,” testified Jeffrey Ritenour on Wednesday. “I felt threatened.”

Ritenour's trial on charges of statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and simple assault began Wednesday before President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. in Fayette County.

A 16-year-old girl testified Ritenour had a knife when he had sexual intercourse with her on May 24, 2012, during a walk along a trail near her Saltlick home.

“He asked me to have sex with him,” testified the girl, who was 14 at the time of the alleged assault. “I told him no, but he pushed me to the ground and climbed on top of me.”

The Tribune-Review does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The girl testified the two had intercourse on two subsequent walks the same year, in June and July. Ritenour, she said, “told me he loved me, and he wanted to marry me when I was 18.”

The girl testified Ritenour gave her jewelry and told her not to tell anyone about the encounters. She later told an ex-boyfriend, she testified, before talking to police.

Trooper James Pierce testified Ritenour initially denied the allegations during an interview at Ritenour's home. Pierce testified he was preparing to leave the house when Ritenour asked him to stay and “admitted to me what he had done.”

Pierce testified Ritenour told him he had sex with the teenager in May. Pierce said Ritenour dictated a statement to him, then signed it.

Ritenour testified he never had sex with the girl and signed the statement because he was “nervous” and suffers from anxiety and depression.

“I was scared to death,” Ritenour testified. “I said, ‘OK, sit down, I'll tell you whatever you want to hear.' ”

Ritenour testified that on May 24, 2012, he was working on the other side of the state for most of the day in Morgantown, Berks County. In June and July, he said, he was out of state for days at a time for work.

Although Pierce testified Ritenour told him he had an angel and a dagger tattooed on his chest because the girl broke his heart, Ritenour said the tattoos were for other reasons.

The dagger, he testified, includes the phrase “don't trust anyone” because he does not trust people. The second tattoo, of an angel with a sword in its heart, balances out the dagger, he said.

Ritenour said the fact he called the teen “Angel Eyes” had nothing to do with the decision to have the angel tattooed on his chest.

The case is expected to go to the jury for deliberations on Thursday following closing arguments by Assistant District Attorney Meghann Mikluscak and defense attorney Michael Garofalo.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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