Stephen J. Schaetzle
The trial of alleged sex assaulter Stephen J. Schaetzle began Tuesday morning, when a woman took the stand and said that Schaetzle raped her in February 2006 while he was in North Platte for a family gathering.Two days later, Schaetzle was taken to jail.
The alleged victim and Schaetzle are cousins. Their families celebrated a belated Christmas celebration in 2006 when Schaetzle returned from an assignment in Japan.
The woman was 14 at the time. Schaetzle is six years older than she. There is no statute of limitations on sexual assaults.
The woman testified that they were drinking in a motel room, trying to comfort each other over the suicide of Schaetzle’s brother. She said Schaetzle became assertive and eventually forced her to have sex. She said she didn’t call out for help because she was scared and didn’t know how to react.
The woman didn’t report the act for six and a half years. Then she told her father and then her mother. Her father contacted the Nebraska State Patrol.
The NSP conducted an extensive investigation and Schaetzle admitted he did something, after a three-hour interview, but would not spell it out in writing. Later, he recanted, saying it was a false confession.
A jury of 10 men and 2 women heard the case in Lincoln County District Court.
Lincoln County District Judge Richard Birch presided. Prosecutor Tanya Roberts-Connick presented her case Tuesday, which included the full 3-hour video of the Nebraska State Patrol interview with Schaetzle.
Defense Attorney Kent Florom cross examined the woman when she was on the stand, saying she made contradictory statements to investigators and attorneys. The woman said she had a hard time remembering the details because she tried to put it out of her mind, and she was intimidated and scared during the interviews, especially in the early stages of the investigation.
She said Schaetzle told her during and after intercourse that it was something that family does for each other and no one would believe her if she told.
She said did her best to put it out of her mind over the years, but finally needed to tell someone.
Florom presented his case on Wednesday, trying to establish reasonable doubt that his client was guilty. The jury went into deliberation at 4 p.m. and returned with a guilty verdict an hour later, and Schaetzle was taken to the Lincoln County Jail.
Schaetzle lives in Colorado Springs and is now in the naval reserve. He wore his uniform throughout the trial. His sentencing is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. April 28.