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Area man found guilty in rape case

Liberty resident faces life sentence with parole eligibility after 10 years

Staff photo / Raymond L. Smith Defendant Theodore J. Fecko III, left, listens to his attorney, Robert Rohrbaugh II, before Rohrbaugh presents closing arguments Wednesday in Fecko’s child rape case in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. Fecko, 41, of Liberty, was convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl last summer.

WARREN — A Liberty man accused of improperly touching a 12-year-old last summer was convicted of rape Wednesday afternoon.

The attorney of Theodore Fecko III, 41, took a chance of not calling any witnesses during the nearly three-day rape trial, leaving the jury only to consider the case presented by Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Diane Barber.

Fecko is facing a mandatory life sentence with parole eligibility after 10 years.

“We are very satisfied with the jury verdict,” Barber said. “These are tough cases, but we need people to come forward and disclose when there has been abuse.

“This kind of case shows there can be a successful prosecution,” she said. “The jury paid very close attention over the last two days and really gave it their all. We really appreciate the system worked this time.”

During closing arguments, defense attorney Robert Rohrbaugh II told jurors the preteen changed the facts of her story of sexual assault that occurred in Fecko’s bedroom on July 23, 2020.

Rohrbaugh suggested the girl initially told investigators his client touched her only after his 9-year-old niece left the room and he got out of bed.

Days later, while being interviewed at Akron Children’s Hospital, the victim described sitting up on the bed with one leg up, when Fecko shoved his hand into her cut off pants leg.

Earlier this week, the victim, according to Rohrbaugh, described his client as forcefully shoving his hand underneath her pants leg, past her underwear and between her legs.

He questioned how, if that was the case, there was no physical evidence, not even a scratch on the girl’s skin or clothing.

Rohrbaugh seized on the suggestion by one of the state’s witnesses that the lack of physical DNA evidence is not uncommon for a girl her age.

The witness, he explained, suggested there only may be a possibility of rape.

“Possibly,” he said. “This leaves plenty of room for reasonable doubt.”

Barber reminded the jury it took incredible bravery for the victim to tell her story to strangers on multiple occasions.

She asked the jury to question whether the changes in the child’s story over time were significant and if they changed the basic nature of the accusations against Fecko.

“She described three pictures being taken at Mill Creek Park that she felt were inappropriate, so she erased them from his phone,” Barber described. “He put his hand underneath her overalls and touched her breast area.”

Barber reminded the jury the victim said she felt weird and uncomfortable when he placed his hand in her pants leg.

“You were told that is a common description for a young girl in her age range,” Barber said. “If she was younger, she might have felt pain.”

Barber reminded jurors of testimony that noted the lack of physical injuries does not negate what the girl reported.

“There is no guarantee that someone who touches something will leave DNA,” Barber said.

When the girl went back to her home and called her mom and stepdad, she locked herself in the house and then inside their bedroom.

“She was still crying and hysterical when they got home,” Barber said.

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