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Jury convicts Donegal man in sexual assault

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 7:03 p.m.

A Fayette County jury deliberated for 4 12 hours on Thursday before finding a 52-year-old Donegal man guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.

The panel of seven men and five women found Jeffrey Ritenour guilty of statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and simple assault following a two-day trial before President Judge John F. Wagner Jr.

The girl, now 16, on Wednesday testified Ritenour forced her to have sex on May 24, 2012, as the two walked on a trail near her Saltlick Township home.

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.

Although she was afraid, the girl testified, she did not immediately tell anyone because Ritenour “told me not to tell anybody or he was gonna hurt my sisters.”

Ritenour denied the allegations. He testified he gave a state trooper verbal and written confessions during an hour-long interview at his home only because he was afraid and nervous and wanted the trooper to leave.

The conviction came despite testimony Thursday from Ritenour's wife of 27 years, Tekla, who said her husband has a mole on the left side of his groin that the girl would have noticed. The girl had testified she did not notice any moles or birthmarks on Jeffrey Ritenour.

In her closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Meghann Mikluscak told jurors, “If he has this birthmark or this mole, I'm sure (Tekla Ritenour) is familiar with it, but that doesn't mean a young girl who's forced to have sex with him would notice it.”

In his closing statement, defense attorney Michael Garofalo said it did not make sense for the girl to continue to go on walks with Ritenour, if she were afraid of him.

“If she's scared, why is she around him?” Garofalo said. “Does that seem reasonable?”

After the verdict, Garofalo declined comment, pending an appeal. Mikluscak said the “commonwealth is extremely satisfied with the verdict the jury has rendered.”

Ritenour had been free on $20,000 bond, but he was taken to the Fayette County Prison when Wagner immediately increased his bond to $100,000.

Ritenour is to be sentenced 10:30 a.m. Jan. 23 before Wagner.

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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