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Child rape trial begins

  • gibbs-trial-1-jpg

    Devante Gibbs talks to his attorney Brian Darling as his trial gets underway Monday.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

  • gibbs-trial-2-jpg

    Devante Gibbs makes a face as his trial ends for the day. His attorney Brian Darling is to the right.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — A Lorain man raped a 2-year-old girl before putting her in hot water, burning her from the waist down, Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Stephanie Malanowski said Monday during her opening statement in the rape trial of Devante Gibbs.

Malanowski said that at the time the alleged sexual abuse took place Gibbs, 24, was dating the girl’s mother and was baby-sitting her at their Sheffield Township apartment while the mother attended classes.

“I trusted him with her life,” the mother said later in the day when she took the stand.

Defense attorney Brian Darling, however, said he doesn’t think the evidence supports the charges against his client, which also include kidnapping, felonious assault and endangering children.

He said the water in the apartment building was set at 115 degrees and suggested that the burns on the girl’s legs could have been caused by an iron in the apartment.

When the girl’s mother returned home the evening of Sept. 18, 2013, she noticed her daughter didn’t seem to be feeling well and had injuries to her leg, Malanowski said.

By the next day, the girl had become worse, and Gibbs called the mother while she was at work and told her the daughter needed to go to a hospital.

The mother testified that Gibbs told her that she was going to be upset with him because of what happened the day before.

She said he told her that he had run a bath for himself and it was too hot, so he went outside to smoke while it cooled down and when he came back inside the girl was in the bathtub. The mother said Gibbs told her that he got the girl out of the tub and gave her chest compressions to get the water out of her lungs.

Malanowski said over the next few days a series of tests and examinations were done to try to figure out what was wrong with the girl, who was placed in a medically induced coma and taken to Rainbow Babies and Children Hospital in Cleveland.

Medical personnel ultimately determined that the girl showed signs of sexual trauma, that she had chlamydia and that she was suffering from septic shock, Malanowski said.

Although Malanowksi suggested it was the sexual trauma that led to the girl’s infection, Darling said it appears more likely she became septic because of the water she inhaled when she was in the tub and vomit.

The mother told jurors that because she and Gibbs were suspects in the case, she wasn’t allowed on the helicopter with her daughter, and she and Gibbs drove out to Cleveland. On the way, she said, Gibbs suffered some sort of seizure that resulted in him being hospitalized.

The girl was hospitalized for more than a month and had to have several surgeries to repair the damage to her internal organs, the mother said. When she was released from the hospital the girl was sent to live with a relative while Lorain County Children Services investigated.

It was nearly a year before the girl, now 5 years old, was allowed to live with her again, the mother testified.

The trial resumes today before county Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.



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