Dog helps girl testify against rapist

June 18, 2011 at 2:18 PM
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POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y., June 18 (UPI) -- With the help of a golden retriever, a 14-year-old girl was able to testify against the man who started raping her at age 10, prosecutors in New York said.

With the dog beside her, the girl testified that 36-year-old Victor Tohom of Poughkeepsie started raping her in 2006.

In a Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal report, the prosecuting attorney said Rose, the "human companion" trained to sense stress in children, definitely helped the victim through difficult testimony.

"Rose absolutely, without question, gave her the strength she needed to get through her testimony," said Dutchess County Senior Assistant District Attorney Kristine Hawlk after a 12-person jury convicted Tohom of predatory sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

As the victim testified, Rose nuzzled her and asked for attention and the girl petted and stroked her. The two were in almost constant contact during her testimony, the newspaper reported.

Defense attorney David Martin declined to comment about the dog's presence in court -- reportedly the first such instance in New York -- and he is expected to raise the issue in Tohom's appeal, the newspaper said.

Tohom could be sentenced to 25 years to life prison, and Hawlk said she will ask the judge to impose the maximum sentence.

"He deserves it," Hawlk said. "He took this girl's life and changed it forever when she was 10 years old."

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