The 9-year-old girl was in the courtroom on Dec. 12 to testify against a man she once considered her friend.
She hugged a large stuffed animal to her chest and slid to the far side of her seat, leaning away as the jury was seated. A comfort dog sat at her feet; an advocate sat close behind her.
When the one-day trial was all over, the jury took only 10 minutes to convict Theodore Charles Dyer of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The 66-year-old Grand Haven man now faces up to life in prison when sentenced Jan. 20 by Ottawa County Circuit Judge Ed Post.
The fourth-grader said she and her siblings spent a lot of time with the neighborhood man, as he and his roommate had an open-door policy.
The girl’s sister testified that the victim was Dyer’s favorite, and Grand Haven public safety officers supported that by supplying photos of the man’s locked box that included only photographs of the young victim.
The girl said she often went to the man’s house.
“We played a lot of games, like Twister, Shoots and Ladders, Candy Land,” she said.
The neighbor often took her with him to drop off his roommate at work or to go to a fast-food restaurant.
The girl’s mom testified that she was not aware of any problems until going to collect her young daughter at about 9 p.m. July 23. Her other children were already home at the time.
“He was very nice," the mother said. "He helped out when I needed help with the kids. If we were all home, he’d prop his door open and I’d prop my door open, and the kids would run back and forth.”
So, on the night of July 23, the mother walked into the apartment and back toward the bedrooms, where she heard voices. The bedroom door was ajar, so she opened it farther. She said that's when she saw Dyer performing oral sex on the girl.
“I flung the door open and I yelled, ‘Hell no!’ I went in and grabbed her off the bed. He backed off before I got to where they were at,” the girl’s mother testified.
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.