Salem man’s rape trial under way

LISBON – Testimony began Tuesday in the Columbiana County Common Pleas Court case of Anthony Mehno, the Salem man accused of raping the 15-year-old girl who was babysitting his girlfriend’s daughter.

In his opening statements, Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol said the teen had been asleep next to the 2-year-old child on April 29, 2010 and awoke sometime around 2 or 3 a.m. to find the then-24-year-old Mehno on top of her having sexual intercourse with his hand over her mouth.

“He picked the wrong girl,” McNicol said. “She’s a fighter. She’s a tough cookie.”

McNicol said the girl punched Mehno in the mouth and kneed him in the groin, getting away from him. He said she then grabbed her clothes and a cell phone and left, calling her mother’s boyfriend in East Liverpool for help because she believed her mother’s cell phone was out of minutes. The boyfriend called the girl’s mother, who had just put more minutes on her cell phone that night, and her mother came from her home about two miles away to pick her up.

“I’ve never heard my daughter so upset,” the mother said when she spoke to her daughter on the phone to tell her she was on the way. “She wanted to go home. She was hard to understand. Her purse was still in the apartment and she didn’t want to go in to get it.”

According the McNicol, evidence will show the girl had abrasions on her hand consistent with punching Mehno to get away, a physical condition which is consistent with a rape and DNA evidence showing Mehno was the person who did it.

However, the teen also did not go immediately to the hospital. Her mother testified she tried for nearly 24 hours to convince her daughter to go to get checked out and refused to allow her to take a shower.

“I didn’t want her to to shower and wash away the evidence,” the mother testified. “I didn’t want him to get away with it.”

“So evidence was the first thing on your mind,” challenged defense attorney Kenneth Lewis.

“My daughter’s welfare was the first thing on my mind,” the mother returned.

According to the mother, Mehno and his girlfriend at the time, Ashley Goudy, came to the house to find Goudy’s cell phone, which the girls had used to call her mother. The mother testified her daughter, who had been on the porch at the time, began shaking and had the color drain from her face. She went into the house.

“I reached through the window and grabbed Anthony’s shirt and told him he was lucky I was more concerned about my daughter’s welfare than vengeance,” the mother testified.

She said Mehno reacted by refusing to look her in the eyes, only looking down.

When they did go to Salem Community Hospital on the evening of April 29, they learned the facility does not have anyone there to process the rapes of children. They were asked to take her to Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman. But they went home instead because the mother had borrowed the truck and did not have enough gas money to get to Boardman.

The hospital contacted Salem Police and Patrolman Danny Green came to the house after 9:30 p.m. that night. He testified he made arrangements through Children Services to get the girl and her mother a ride to Boardman by ambulance and a voucher for a taxi ride back.

It was noted a rape kit was done. The clothes she had been wearing when she left Goudy’s house were reportedly brought to the hospital in paper bags and sealed. Salem Detective David Talbert said he later forwarded those clothes to the Bureau of Criminal Information and Investigation. Interviews of the teen were handled by the Youngstown Child Advocacy Center, although Talbert said he did follow up with the mother’s boyfriend, who was the first person the teen called. Talbert said his story matched the girl’s.

Talbert said between May 6 and June 3 he tried to contact Mehno about what had happened, but was unable to reach him by leaving phone messages or going to two different addresses. In November, Mehno did agree to provide a DNA sample.

Testimony is expected to continue on Wednesday morning.

In addition to the rape charge, Mehno is facing charges of sexual battery and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor – all charges stemming from the same alleged assault.