Incidents occurred in Barnstead and Alton
By BEA LEWIS, for The Laconia Daily Sun
LACONIA — The lawyer defending a man charged with the serial sexual abuse of a girl told the jury that that the allegations are "cringing, terrible," but urged them to keep an open mind suggesting that once the motives become clear "The cringe will go away."
George Colbath, 62, is accused of seven counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault. He is alleged to have repeatedly engaged in a variety of sex acts with the girl when she was under age 18, between Sept. 1, 2014, and Jan. 30, 2016, in Barnstead and Alton.
As Colbath is facing similar allegations involving the same girl in Nottingham, the case now being heard in Belknap County Superior Court, is being prosecuted by the Rockingham County Attorney's Office.
Prosecutor Annaliese Wolf warned the jury that the testimony they would hear would be both graphic and emotional. DNA evidence found on the comforter taken from the girl's bed, she said, links Colbath to
"This is more than a 'he said, she said' case. The evidence will include DNA and statements by the defendant that will back up what the witnesses will say on the stand," Wolf said.
In his own opening statement to the jury, defense attorney Mark Sisti said the allegations were made when the complaining witness and Colbath were at odds.
"Was he over protective at times? Yes. Were there arguments at times? Yes, there were. Were there concerns that she would be hurt by others? Yes. And was there discipline if she didn't do her chores with the horses? Yes, there was," Sisti said.
He urged the jury to use the lens of "beyond a reasonable doubt" when considering the evidence. When the girl underwent a physical examination by a pediatric nurse there were no signs of sexual abuse.
"Just because they come before you and say (the negative examination) doesn't mean it didn't happen; it doesn't mean it did, either," Sisti said. "The DNA is a mess full of the potential for cross contamination. There is no way to know when fluids got on that blanket."
The prosecutor told the jury, testimony would show that after the girl disclosed the abuse and confronted Colbath in front of a witness, that he denied the allegations. In response, the girl pulled a sex aid from beneath her pillow and announced that Colbath had used it on her.
Colbath stormed from the house and said he was going to kill himself, according to the prosecutor.
Two sexual devices were seized by police and DNA testing showed one was linked to both the girl and Colbath. The second contained DNA from three individuals.
"You heard from the prosecutor herself – there is evidence of three people on some of these objects. I'm not going to ask you to speculate, but it has to be clear and convincing evidence," Sisti said.
In laying out her own road map of the evidence for the jury, the prosecutor said after the girl disclosed the allegations and Colbath threatened to harm himself, Barnstead police were called.
When Colbath was pulled over, driving his pickup truck, he'd jury-rigged the exhaust to vent into the cab, was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital for treatment.
While Colbath's girlfriend witnessed the girl accuse him and supported her at the time, the prosecutor said, following his arrest the defendant remained jailed for quite some time before he was able to make bail. Colbath repeatedly called the woman and she was one of only two people to visit him while he remained held. When he made bail, the couple were married in April.
The state claims that Colbath coerced the girl into submitting to his advances by taking her cell phone, refusing to let her drive and threatening to sell her horses.
The defense however, painted Colbath as a man who felt sorry for the girl and bought her horses in an effort to help her recover from the 2009 death of her mother, which she witnessed at age 10, and the death of her maternal grandmother just 13 months later.
Sisti said Colbath is anxious to testify.
"He's fed up. Enough is enough. Is he angry? I don't know what the emotion is. I think it's more devastation," Sisti said, as Colbath wiped away tears. "You'd rather be accused of murder that sexually abusing someone you cared for."
George Colbath, foreground, and co-prosecutor John Mara, left, listen to testimony in Belknap County Superior Court on Tuesday. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
George Colbath, foreground and his defense attorney Mark Sisti listen to testimony during the first day of Colbath's sex assault trial that started Tuesday in Belknap County Superior Court. (Bea Lewis/For The Laconia Daily Sun)