Jury finds Thitchner guilty of sexual battery

OKEECHOBEE — A six-person Okeechobee jury found a New York man guilty Thursday afternoon, Dec. 7, 2017 on multiple charges from a 2013 rape.

Conrad Thitchener, 49, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., was found guilty on felony charges of two counts of sexual battery with threat of force and kidnapping. The crime was committed on the night of Dec. 23, 2013. Thitchener plead not guilty.

The prosecutors in this case were Assistant State Attorney’s Jeffrey Davis and Ashley Albright. Thitchener was represented by Attorney Michael Ohle. 19th Circuit Court Judge, Dan L. Vaughn, presided over the criminal case. The six-person jury was evenly split between men and women.

The victim testified that she lived in West Palm Beach and was going on “paid dates” as a means of financial income. She claimed to receive a call from a “Michael Anthony” who told her he “got her number from a friend he previously had a date with” and agreed to meet in Okeechobee. She testified “the understanding was for a paid date.”

Conrad A. Thitchener, 49

The woman said her boyfriend drove and Thitchener “instructed her to have the friend drop her off and he (Thitchener) would pick her up. He then instructed for us to park at the VFW and call when there.” She informed the jury that she “was wearing a black top, black pants and carrying a purse.”

After being brought into the home by Thitchener, the attack began, she testified. The victim stated that Thitchener threatened to shoot her in the head if she did not give him her phone. A physical altercation ensued between the two with the victim’s hair being pulled and Thitchener prevented her from exiting the trailer.

“In the struggle, I heard something break and he said I broke his stove,” the woman told the jury. She then said “he forced me to take my clothes off” and “I knew he was going to rape me.” The woman then testified “I told him to please not do this” before she made a final plea of “if you’re going to do this please use protection.”

Thitchener, according to the victim’s testimony, “looked at me, then didn’t use protection. He pinned me down and forced my legs open. I was trying to fight him off but he slapped my face and pinned me down.” She was then dragged from the bedroom to the bathroom and was on the toilet, where she was then forced to perform oral sex on Thitchener. “I remember throwing up on the floor, some on the carpet runner” the woman continued.

The victim then testified, “He made me get dressed and promise not to tell the police. He allowed me to get dressed and walk out. I crossed the street, got in the passenger side of the car and started to cry,” as her boyfriend drove away from the mobile home. “I stopped at St. Mary’s Hospital and saw a doctor and nurses who took swabs, clothing, and encouraged me to contact law enforcement,” the woman continued. No money was ever accepted by the victim from Thitchener for the encounter that took place.

The first individual to testify on behalf of the prosecution, Detective Howard Pickering, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), stated that he responded to a sexual assault incident Dec. 24, 2013. The first name of the alleged attacker provided by the victim was “Michael Anthony.” Detective Pickering said he “called the cell phone number provided by the victim and the person identified himself as Conrad Thitchener, and I met with him that day.”

Det. Pickering said he met with Thitchener “outside of his home at Thornberry RV Park and he denied meeting a woman on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, but admitted to speaking with an escort service.” Detective Pickering informed the jury that a total of three recorded interviews were taken that day with Thitchener giving his account of the encounter where he claimed he thought he had a masseuse coming to give him a massage and upon his finding out that the woman was an escort denied any business arrangements for services or compensation and did not let her into his home. Mr. Davis asked Det. Pickering “Did he agree to a DNA swab?” to which the detective answered “Yes.”

In a video exhibit presented by the state, Thitchener is seen providing a sworn written statement about his account of the alleged incident as well as a DNA cheek swab.

Thitchener also stated “can reach me anytime” in the video when asked about a possible follow up interview. However, later OCSO arrest reports stated Thitchener fled Okeechobee Jan. 2, 2014, shortly after the incident Dec. 23, to his place of birth, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

The case was reassigned to Deputy Sergeant, then Det. Corporal, Rosemary Farless on Dec. 27, 2013. On Dec. 30, the victim conducted an interview at the sheriff’s office. Sgt. Farless testified that she tried to make contact with Thitchener that she “had received the phone number provided by Detective Pickering and attempted to call four times with no answer.”

Sgt. Farless attempted to locate Thitchener at the Okeechobee address he provided but found he had sold the trailer and was not there.

The recipient of the trailer purchase, Ron Clark, testified that he “heard about a motor home for sale” and that he met Thitchener at his camper who “offered to sell at $4,000, but agreed to sell it for $2,000.” Clark had not seen Thitchener since the initial purchase agreement and Clark had to meet someone on the coast to transfer the title. Clark testified that he was contacted by OCSO for permission to search the recently purchased home. He said he did not go inside as he did not have keys or title, leaving the trailer in the same condition in which the seller, Thitchener, left it in.

The fourth witness to be called by the prosecution was Crime Scene Investigator, Jackie Moore, who testified that they were given consent to search the trailer by the new owner.

She performed an evaluation of the scene in the presence of fellow technician, Kathleen Watson, and Det. Mark Shireman.

Photographs of the oven revealed shards of glass in the oven door housing and throughout the RV. Blood was visible on a plastic hallway runner that was collected. An alternate light source also showed the presence of other bodily fluids. A piece of glass was also photographed on the bed with a long black hair.

Long black hairs were found in two accordion style doors, shower track and below the oven.

An earring was found with a flattened post inside the trailer and the backing of the earring on the outside step. All the items were collected and submitted into evidence with some items sent for testing at the crime laboratory.

Prosecution then had the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner testify as an expert witness. She claimed that she met with the victim at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach where she collected and submitted the woman’s clothing to law enforcement. She then took swabs from her cheek, mouth and perineum after she performed a visual exam.

Julie Casals, of the Indian River Crime Lab, was called as the seventh witness in the case to provide analysis of DNA samples that were submitted.

The perineum and oral swabs from the rape kit issued at St. Mary’s, were tested for the presence of semen. The perineum swab, through a microscopic exam, found a match to Thitchener. A rectal swab, also through a microscopic exam, found a DNA match to Thitchener as well.

The plastic carpet runner had five areas test chemically positive for blood stains and an alternate light source depicted the presences of other bodily fluids. The blood stains matched to both the woman and Thitchener. The other bodily fluids were positive for semen and a match to Thitchener.

The black shirt and pants were also observed and stains found chemically tested positive for the presences of semen and was also microscopically examined to confirm presence.

“Her testimony of what happened matches the material evidence presented in this case and the defendant should be found guilty on all counts alleged against him,” Mr. Davis stated to the jury during closing arguments. “She has nothing to gain out of this, it isn’t a civil suit.

She has done what most women don’t have the courage to do, and testify against her assailant, in hopes that you will believe her,” Mr. Albright concluded the prosecution’s case to the jury.

According to OCSO reports Thitchener and the victim did not know each other prior to Dec. 23. The alleged rape took place in his small travel trailer that was parked in an RV park on U.S. 441 Southeast.

Once inside his trailer, Thitchener came up from behind and put his arm around the woman’s throat in a choke hold, stated the OCSO report. The victim reportedly told OCSO investigators she felt something hard against the back of her head and she thought it was a gun.

The two began to fight and during their battle they broke the glass out of the oven door, so shards were now scattered across the kitchen floor, continued the report.

Apparently the woman began to scream, but Thitchener reportedly threw her to the floor “like a rag doll” and allegedly ordered her to “shut up, or I swear to God I’m going to kill you!”

The woman reportedly told detectives each time she would reach for the door, her alleged attacker would grab her around the neck and pull her away from the door.

Detectives stated Thitchener then raped the woman in his bedroom and bathroom.

A few days later he sold the trailer and fled to New York, indicated the reports. He was later apprehended May 13, 2014, by the Poughkeepsie Police Department in conjunction with the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force, and later returned to Okeechobee.

Thitchener was found guilty on two felony charges of sexual battery – threat of force and one felony charge of kidnapping. While in jail awaiting trial, Thitchener was arrested for battery, that was video recorded, on his cell mate in June of 2016.

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