ELYRIA — Devante Gibbs said he was “scared to death” when he took the stand Thursday to deny charges he had raped a 2-year-old girl he was baby-sitting in 2013.
Gibbs’ testimony, during which he repeatedly raised his voice and at times cried, also included clashes with Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Stephanie Malanowski, who had to ask county Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery to direct Gibbs to answer her questions.
“Sir, is there some reason you’re having trouble answering my questions? I’m asking you…,” Malanowski said.
“My trouble answering them is because I know your job,” Gibbs said. “I know your job. Your job is to make me look bad.”
“Judge…,” Malanowski started to say.
“Your job is to make me look like I’m the bad person,” Gibbs continued. “Your job is to make me look like a molester, a rapist, which I am not, which I am not. I am not.”
Gibbs didn’t deny that he was the only one besides the girl’s mother to spend time alone with the alleged victim Sept. 18, 2013.
He said while the mother was at school, he drew a bath for himself so he could “soak and smoke,” but the water was too hot.
He said he went outside to have a cigarette and when he came back inside, he heard the girl, who he thought had been asleep, splashing in the tub.
Gibbs said he went into the bathroom and got the girl out and had to use thrusts to her chest to get her to cough up some water.
He said he thought the girl was fine because she asked him for a hot dog afterward and otherwise appeared normal.
But the girl wasn’t fine, her mother testified earlier in the trial. The mother said she went out to get ointment and pain relievers for the girl that night.
After the mother went to work the next day, Gibbs said the girl became even more ill, and he called a nursing hotline to see what he should do. The nurse on the phone told him to take the girl for medical attention.
It was only then, Gibbs testified, that he told the mother what had happened.
“I made the greatest mistake of my entire life that ruined everything and didn’t tell the mom right away,” Gibbs said.
But Malanowski said that wasn’t the mistake Gibbs made.
“In fact, the greatest mistake of your life was raping this child (and) trying to get rid of the evidence in a hot tub of water…” she said.
“Really? Really?” Gibbs replied.
“…which, yeah, you got rid of the DNA, but…” Malanowski said.
“How do you… No,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs said he took responsibility for the girl getting in the hot water, although he insisted he hadn’t put the girl in the tub as Malanowski said. He also said the evidence showed that the girl was raped, but he wasn’t responsible for that.
“Somebody raped that little girl, OK? Somebody raped her, and I know I may be on trial for it and I know I may risk it all saying it, but somebody did it,” Gibbs said. “Somebody did it, and I mean I may risk it all saying this, but if I knew who did it, he probably wouldn’t have made it here to this day, OK? As any rapist deserves. He would have got what he deserved.”
Gibbs also said he didn’t have chlamydia, which the girl was found to have.
Also taking the stand Wednesday was county sheriff’s Sgt. Josh Croston, who said that over the course of several interviews, Gibbs’ version of events remained consistent.
“He didn’t say, ‘I didn’t rape her,’” Croston said at one point. “He said he wouldn’t hurt her.”
The trial resumes today with closing arguments.