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Nicholas Deon Thrash found guilty

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

After just over an hour of deliberation, a Grant County jury convicted Nicholas Deon Thrash of 10 counts of child molesting Wednesday.

Thrash was arrested in May 2017 after a girl who had just turned 11 was found to be five months pregnant and disclosed to a Department of Child Services worker that she had been molested repeatedly by Thrash.

Thrash now faces a possible sentence of up to 40 years in prison for each count of Level 1 felony child molesting, a total of up to 400 years in prison.

According to the prosecuting attorneys, throughout the legal process the victim’s wellbeing has been the most important thing.

“(The victim) was foremost in our mind during this case,” Grant County Prosecutor Jim Luttrull said. “We appreciate an enormous amount of people … who offered their assistance to the victim, for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and all the work they provided in the case.”

Deputy Prosecutor Lisa Glancy described the guilty verdict as a victory, but one that can’t erase the harm that’s been done. “It’s something little compared to what (the victim) has gone through and what she will go through,” Glancy said.

During the trial Wednesday, Thrash had to be removed from the courtroom after repeatedly disobeying the judge’s orders during the State’s cross-examination.

Ignoring Luttrull’s questions, Thrash instead starting telling the jury from the witness stand that the victim “lied” and “had other sex cases.”

The jury had to be removed from the room and Thrash was handcuffed by Sheriff’s deputies and not allowed to return for the remainder of the trial.

A similar outburst during jury selection on Monday had also caused problems. Thrash spoke out of turn, disobeyed the orders of the judge and even wrote a note on a piece of paper and held it up to the jury.

“In an effort to attack and demean the victim, the defendant starting spouting what we believe are lies,” Luttrull said of the incident.

Judge Jeffrey Todd, who presided over the trial, explained the decision to remove Thrash. “This behavior was so disruptive, disorderly and disrespectful … the trial could not be carried out with (Thrash) present in the courtroom,” Todd said.

Earlier in the trial, DNA analyst Stacy Bozinovski presented the results of a paternity test that had concluded there was a 99.9999 percent probability that Thrash was the father of the baby the victim delivered in September 2017.

Bozinovski, who works in the Indiana State Police lab in Indianapolis, said the probability that resulted from the DNA testing was the highest possible probability achievable.

In his testimony, Thrash said he did not deny that he was the father of the baby but maintained he never molested the victim. Instead, he claimed that the victim’s mother, his girlfriend Jennifer Lynn Hand, had inseminated the victim using his sperm.

The jury believed the victim’s testimony on Tuesday, when she shyly told the jury that Thrash had molested her at least 15 times over many months in 2016 and 2017.

“Child molest cases are always unique … It’s very difficult for the kids talking about the details of what happened to them in front of a courtroom, in front of the defendant,” Glancy said.

In his closing argument, Thrash’s attorney Evan Hammond focused on the difficulty the victim had in pinning down the exact number of times and locations that she had been molested.

But Glancy reminded jurors of the heartbreaking details the victim was able to provide, such as the way she wrote “Will it stop?” in a list of questions she had for the DCS worker.

Now that Thrash has been convicted, he will return to the Grant County Jail to be held without bail. Thrash’s sentencing is set for Sept. 20 at 2:30 p.m.

The victim’s mother, Hand, was also arrested in May 2017 and faces charges of neglect, aiding in child molesting and assisting a criminal, all related to the molesting. The charges allege that Hand knew about the molesting and the pregnancy and failed to report them to authorities and that Hand gave false information to investigators.

Luttrull said the conviction in Thrash’s case won’t change how the prosecutor’s office approaches the Hand trial. “It’s a different set of issues, different crimes,” Luttrull said.

Hand is currently serving a sentence for theft in the Grant County Jail. Her trial on the charges related to the Thrash case is scheduled for Oct. 9 at 8:30 a.m.