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Little Rock man to serve life in rape of girl

by John Lynch | December 12, 2019 at 7:09 a.m.
Donald Caple

A 69-year-old Little Rock man was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday by a Pulaski County jury that heard what Donald Glynn Caple called "play" -- the repeated rape and sexual assault of a girl -- has left the now 13-year-old child suicidal and depressed with years of therapy ahead of her.

The main issue for the nine women and three men of the jury seated before Circuit Judge Barry Sims was to decide whether Caple had ever raped the girl.

Caple freely admitted to molesting her for years. His March 2018 70-minute confession to Little Rock detective Eric Barnes was the centerpiece of the prosecution's case while Caple spent about 40 minutes on the witness stand answering questions in front of the jury about what he'd done to the girl.

Caple testified he had never raped the girl because he loved her and wanted her to be a virgin when she got married, just like he was when he got married almost 45 years ago.

In Caple's version of events, the girl first approached him about sex after finding him watching a pornographic video and questioning him about it. Caple described their encounters as guidance for her.

Caple told jurors he would never have initiated sexual contact with the girl, but he was lonely for physical connection because his wife had lost interest in intimacy. He told jurors he never intended to hurt the girl.

"I was weak. I did something I shouldn't have," Caple testified. "I was doing it, but I understood I shouldn't be doing it. I even tried to tell her we shouldn't be doing it.

Molesting her was wrong, but she kept coming back to him for more because she enjoyed it, Caple said, estimating they had at most four sexual encounters a year over three years.

The eighth grader presented a different version of events. She testified for about 20 minutes, with her right hand -- sometimes trembling -- pressed against her temple as she answered prosecutors' questions.

Asked how often Caple had molested her, she answered "a million times." Authorities accused Caple of abusing her for about six and a half years, ending in February 2018. He was arrested the following month.

The eighth grader told jurors the abuse began when she was around 4 years old. She said she'd heard a classmate use the word sex, so she asked Caple what that meant. He responded by showing her pornographic videos and cartoons, eventually progressing to molesting her when she was about 5 years old, the girl said. Caple called it "play."

She said she was about 10 years old when she realized what Caple was doing was wrong. She told him to stop in late 2017, and he promised he would, she said. But when Caple grabbed her breasts a few months later, she told a school guidance counselor what Caple was doing, and police were notified.

The girl told jurors she was inspired to stand up to Caple after reading a book by Elizabeth Smart, a Utah woman and child safety activist who was abducted from her Salt Lake City home in 2001 and subjected to nine months of physical and sexual abuse by her captors before being rescued by police.

"I'm still trying to realize that this is not my fault," she said, describing how she had taken to cutting herself and had come close to committing suicide last summer.

In closing arguments Wednesday, defense attorney Bill James told jurors that Caple was guilty of second-degree sexual assault, which makes criminal sexual contact a Class B felony that carries up to 20 years in prison.

"He absolutely had sexual contact with her. He is absolutely guilty of this," James said. "What you have to ask yourself is: Do I have a reasonable doubt [about rape] ... or is it reasonable that he drew this line in the sand?"

A former Arkansas Children's Hospital administrator who once ran 16 of the hospital's departments, Caple didn't have to tell police what he'd done, but he was truthful with authorities because he's honest to a fault, James said.

He told jurors his client did some "horrible things" to the girl, but rape was a line Caple would not cross. Rape, a Class Y felony, carries a 25-year minimum when the victim is a child.

"I told you ... this would not be pretty," James said. "It's not a whodunit. It's a question of how far someone would go."

Deputy Prosecutors Jeanna Sherrill and Katie Hinojosa told jurors that Caple absolutely had admitted to rape in his police interview when he described how he had fondled and kissed the girl. Caple just didn't know what the legal definition of rape was when he spoke with police, the prosecutors said.

"He admitted it to Detective Barnes, and he admitted it to you," Hinojosa said. "He made her think [abuse] was normal. He made her believe that this is something she should be doing."

Prosecutors called her "the bravest girl" for coming forward, and told jurors that her testimony about how Caple forced her to perform oral sex and once attempted intercourse with her in 2017, only stopping after she begged him to stop because he was hurting her, was further proof of rape.

"What it comes down to is, who do you believe?" Sherrill told jurors.

She urged them to consider how Caple had ingratiated himself with the girl's family as a benefactor who let her family live rent-free in a home he owned and became a trusted regular babysitter for both her and her younger brother.

Jurors deliberated less than 30 minutes to find Caple guilty as charged with both sexual assault and rape. Deciding on a life sentence took about 80 minutes. Prosecutors called for the maximum punishment, calling Caple unrepentant and citing testimony from the girl and her mother.

"He has sentenced my daughter to a life of sexual trauma," the 41-year-old woman said.

Her daughter has since been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which is caused by repeated exposure to childhood trauma, she told jurors. The girl is in therapy but the condition, which can cause flashbacks, ruin sleep and inflict depression, never fully goes away, she said.

Caple still faces a rape charge in Garland County where authorities say he has similarly admitted to molesting the same girl over almost four years from December 2010 to September 2014.

Metro on 12/12/2019

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