By Dave Pearce
While the nation attempts to come to grips with the senseless shooting of 28 innocent people, 20 of them members of a first grade class in Connecticut, Posey County Prosecutor Travis Clowers dealt with tragedy on a smaller scale this week.
Stephen Brakie, a 19-year-old Mount Vernon resident was convicted this week, by a jury of six men and six women, of Child Molesting, a class A Felony, causing serious bodily injury.
The conviction came on Wednesday afternoon as the result of an investigation by the Mount Vernon Police Department and more specifically, Detective Thomas Rueger.
“Any time you have to put a child of that age on the stand to talk about such a horrific thing in front of 12 people she has never met, it is a very difficult and heart-wrenching,” Clowers said. “While most children that age are enjoying and preparing to enjoy the holiday on the day before Halloween, this young girl will always have to remember the day before Halloween as the day she was molested. I cared very deeply about this case, especially after I got to know this young child and her family. This was one of the most horrific crimes against a child that I have ever seen.”
On October 30, 2011, at about 6:30 p.m. Mount Vernon Police responded to a call of an alleged child molesting case at a Pearl Street home. Officers were advised that the suspect, then 18-year-old Stephen J. Brakie of Mount Vernon, Ind., had inserted an object (a tool) into the genitalia of the four-year-old child.
The child was taken to Deaconess Hospital for medical examination and treatment. The investigation continued and on November 1, 2011, Brakie was brought in for questioning. At 11:49 a.m. the interview with Brakie was concluded and it was determined that probable cause existed to arrest Brakie and charge him with Child Molesting.
According to the Probable Cause for Arrest, when police arrived at the residence, they met the father of the victim who told them that Brakie had been at their home approximately 40 minutes prior to the phone call to police. The father advised police that his four-year-old daughter complained that her privates were hurting and that Brakie had dome something to her. The father advised that the girl was bleeding from the area.
The child was taken to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville where police were advised there was tearing and an abrasion to the area. The nurse in charge advised police that the injuries were consistent with something penetrating the area and that an incident had indeed occurred.
“We heard testimony from Detective Rueger of the Mount Vernon Police Department and I want to say a special thank you to Detective Rueger and all the hard work he put into this case,” Clowers said. “It was obvious that he cared very much about the case and worked very hard on it.”
Sexual Assault Examination nurse examiner Kathleen Keller testified about the specific injuries to the child when she came to the emergency room.
Following the incident, the young girl was released to the custody of her parents and an interview was then set up at Holly’s House in Evansville.
During the course of interviews, it was determined that Brakie had indeed been at the residence and that he had picked up the young girl and presumably had taken her outside. Just a few minutes later, the young girl’s two sisters came into the house and reported that the young girl’s privates were bleeding.
The young girl originally told her father that she had fallen but upon further questioning, the girl had indicated that she had been molested with a foreign object. Later, the young girl told her father that it had been a “grinder handle” that was used in the molestation. The young girl told police that Brakie had advised her not to tell what he had done or she would be punished.
“We also heard testimony from Jenny Wood, a certified child forensic interviewer from Holly’s House,” Clowers said this week. “While I am sure this was not an easy task for the jury, I want to thank them for their service and I believe justice has been served in this case. It was obvious that they took their job very seriously.”
During questioning just after the initial event, the police officer was told by Brakie’s father that he was 18 but has the mental capacity of a 13-year-old. Brakie denied touching the girl and said that she had fallen on a “rubber piece sticking straight up.” The incident had allegedly occurred in a room of tools.
Clowers said this week that the defense made the argument that Brakie may not have known right from wrong. But Clowers said he had no doubts.
“I told the jury in the closing argument that if there had been a question as to whether this man knew right from wrong or his competency to stand trial, this matter never would have gotten this far,” he explained. “There was never a motion of any type made by the defense to show that Brakie was incompetent. He knew the charges he was facing and he knew right from wrong. There are people who are slow when it comes to book smarts but savvy when it comes to street smarts.”
Brakie also advised police that he was already on probation and that he “had to keep his nose clean.” Brakie was on probation at the time resulting from charges of receiving stolen property…anhydrous ammonia. He plead guilty to the charge of receiving stolen property.
Upon completion of the interview back in 2011, Brakie was placed under arrest and transported to the Posey County Jail where he was booked and lodged with a bond amount of $100,000.
Following the trial, Brakie was taken back into custody and will remain at the Posey County Jail until he is sentenced on January 14.
“I hope people realize that crimes against children will not be tolerated in Posey County,” Clowers said. “I have four children of my own and I love them dearly. It is my job to protect my children. As prosecutor, it is now a part of my job to care for the youngsters in Posey County just as if they are my own.”
Brakie faces a sentence of between 20 and 50 years on the count.