DALLAS – The jury in the Quinlyn Harden case is deliberating the charges against him as of Monday afternoon following closing arguments.
Harden, of Independence, faces 30 sex-abuse related charges in four separate indictments. The four cases – all connected to the now-closed Stinky Feet Child Care facility in Independence -- were consolidated in May. The case was tried in Polk County Circuit Court in Dallas.
The trial began Tuesday with jury selection, and the prosecution presented evidence for three days before resting its case on Friday afternoon. The jury heard from five victims, their parents, the detective investigating the case, and experts from Liberty House, a child abuse assessment center in Salem that interviewed some of the victims.
“This has been a long case, a lot of charges, but it’s not complicated,” said Jayme Kimberly, senior assistant attorney for the Oregon Department of Justice, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of Polk County. “Either the defendant used his mother’s daycare as a pool to abuse children, or children from four different families came in and lied to you.”
Harden’s defense attorney Martin Habekost presented his case on Monday morning. He argued in closing statements that the investigation wasn’t conducted correctly in that Independence Detective Sarah Scharf coached one of the victims during an interview and didn’t fully check out their stories. He asserted that the victims were lying or misremembering incidents that didn’t involve his client.
“The thing that bothers me the most is that she does the exact thing you are not supposed to do: coach them,” Habekost said.
He said in one interview, Scharf told a child, “You are saying all the right things.”
“The state’s experts say not to coach,” Habekost said. “That provides reasonable doubt.”
Habekost also said money in a pending civil lawsuit was a motivation for one victim to come forward. He said that there are other explanations for what some of the victims reported. Some of the alleged crimes could have been committed by a different person.
“It’s not an either-or as the state wants you to believe,” Habekost said.
He said the case started as a snowball and ended in an avalanche of charges and media coverage.
Kimberly said, if that’s true, it was of Harden’s making.
“If there’s a snowball here, it is when he abused his first victim,” Kimberly said. “He is the avalanche. He is not the victim here. He created this snowball.”
Harden has been in custody at the Polk County Jail since March 16, 2018, when he was arrested on three counts of first-degree sex abuse involving a girl younger than 14.
Harden’s mother, Ceola Harden, owned and operated Stinky Feet Childcare, where most of the crimes are alleged to have happened.
The jury was given instructions and released to deliberate at about 3:30 p.m. on Monday.
For more in this story, see the Oct. 16 I-O.