Girl testifies Round Lake Park officer did not paddle her

Her stepfather, a Round Lake Park police officer, is on trial

  • Waymon G. Vela

    Waymon G. Vela

 
 
Updated 1/16/2020 6:50 PM
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct Vela's age.

A 6-year-old girl testified Wednesday that welts and bruises on her back were caused by a fall in her basement last April and were not the result of being spanked with a paddle by a Round Lake Park police officer who has since married her mother.

Her testimony in the trial of her stepfather, Waymon G. Vela, 56, conflicted with a video played in court later in the day in which the girl told an interviewer that Vela hit her six times with a paddle. The video was made soon after the child, then 5, was hurt.

 

Vela, of the 21600 block of West Grass Lake Road near Antioch, is charged with two counts of misdemeanor domestic battery. A 19-year veteran of the Round Lake Park Police Department, Vela was placed on unpaid administrative leave after his arrest.

Assistant State's Attorney Ruth Lofthouse asked the girl Wednesday what her mother had told her to say in court.

"Tell the truth," the girl said.

Lofthouse then asked if there was anything else the girl was told to do.

"Give a daddy a big hug," she said.

The girl's mother, Sarah Taylor Vela, also testified Wednesday and said Vela never struck her daughter. Sarah Taylor Vela, who married Waymon Vela in October, said she intended to spank the girl on April 5 and led her to the basement, where the child flopped on the ground in protest and hurt herself when she struck a black mat.

Sarah Taylor Vela said she noticed the bruises on the girl the next morning when they were getting ready for school.

A speech pathologist at the girl's school testified Tuesday that she questioned the girl after noticing the bruises and the child said her daddy had hit her because she wouldn't stop talking.

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James Adkins, forensic interviewer at the Lake County Children's Advocacy Center in Gurnee, said on the stand Wednesday that he interviewed the girl soon after the injury.

A video of the interview was played for the jury. The girl told Adkins that Vela struck her with a wooden paddle six times.

Vela's defense attorney Eric Rinehart questioned Adkins about the technique he used to interview the child and whether Adkins established the girl was capable of answering questions accurately.

Rinehart asked Adkins why he did not try to establish whether the girl was able to tell a story in sequence, which is an element of the interview method Adkins employed. Adkins said he did try.

"She couldn't do it, so I skipped it," Adkins said.

The trial will resume today.

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