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Girls, now 6 and 7, say Fayette man undressed, touched them while baby-sitting

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Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Two young girls, who were sitting so that they faced jurors and not the man accused of assaulting them, testified Friday for the first time against a Fayette County man.

Now ages 6 and 7, the girls described separate incidents over two days in September 2011, when they said Joseph M. Trifiro, 28, of Lemont Furnace inappropriately touched them.

Trifiro is charged with two counts each of aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault.

During a pretrial hearing in October, Judge Steve Leskinen ruled that the girls did not have to testify under the state's “tender years” exception. The two had been too nervous to testify during a March preliminary hearing on the charges, police said at the time.

Before jurors heard testimony from the girls and several prosecution witnesses presenting hearsay testimony, Leskinen first listened to it Friday and then ruled the witnesses could testify for the jury.

On Friday, the girls separately testified that Trifiro, a family friend, was baby-sitting them when the alleged incidents occurred.

During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Linda Cordaro, each girl said that Trifiro touched them on their “private” areas.

Neither could give a specific time or date, but said that the incidents occurred when their family was moving into a new home.

The girls' parents testified separately that one day after an alleged incident they questioned one girl's withdrawn behavior.

She first denied Trifiro had done anything to her. When they examined her and found her genital area “red and swollen,” the father said, the girl said Trifiro had touched her.

They examined the other girl, who also said Trifiro had touched her. She said Trifiro said that if she told anyone they both would be in trouble, the father said.

Sarah Gluzman, forensic interviewer with A Child's Place at Mercy, a Pittsburgh child advocacy center, met with both girls in October 2011.

She said the girls said Trifiro removed their clothes and touched their private parts. Gluzman said she found their statements “genuine.”

Also testifying Friday was self-described “jailhouse lawyer” David Serrano, 34.

The Fayette County Prison inmate said he met Trifiro while the two were inmates at the state prison in LaBelle.

Serrano said Trifiro came to him in 2012 for advice involving a case with “two small kids.”

He said Trifiro admitted assaulting them and enjoyed “having power over them.”

Serrano, who acknowledged he was looking for a plea bargain, contacted Cordaro and offered to testify.

Facing a felony charge of aggravated assault by a prisoner, Serrano on Thursday entered a plea of guilty to what Cordaro called an “amended” misdemeanor charge of simple assault.

Defense attorney Tom Shaffer will present testimony when the trial resumes Monday before Leskinen.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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