A 7-year-old girl will testify in court against the woman accused of abducting her from a Philadelphia school and brutally raping her last year, prosecutors say.
The trial of Christina Regusters, 21, was set to begin inside a city courtroom on Thursday, but was delayed after two jurors were dropped from the case.
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In January 2013, the former daycare worker dressed in a burqa, or traditional Muslim face covering, and signed the girl, then 5 years old, out of Bryant Elementary School in the Cobbs Creek section of the city, according to police and a grand jury. Surveillance video captured the woman leaving the school.
Then, officials say Regusters took the girl to a nearby home where she blindfolded and then assaulted her. The girl was found early the next morning, in the freezing cold, on a Delaware County, Pennsylvania, playground. She had been dumped there wearing only a T-shirt.
Criminal prosecutors say they were planning to interview the victim via video, but withdrew that request on Thursday. They instead confirmed that the girl, who still must undergo reconstructive surgery because of the severity of her injuries, would come into the courtroom and testify in person. She is set to take the stand on the second or third day of trial.
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During pre-trial arguments on Thursday, prosecutors fought to include evidence they allegedly found on Regusters’ bedroom computer. The district attorney said they uncovered graphic cartoons depicting sexual humiliation were often watched. But Common Pleas Judge Jeffery Minehart ruled the the drawings were inadmissible because it’s not a crime to possess such images in Pennsylvania.
However, prosecutors will be allowed to introduce other evidence that they say points to Regusters' guilt. They say Regusters' internet history showed the woman searched for Muslim clothing and how to get rid of rape DNA.
Investigators said they were able to pull DNA from the shirt the girl was wearing to link the case to Regusters.
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W. Fred Harrison, Jr., the defendant's attorney, argued anyone could have used the woman's computer to watch the videos and search the internet.
Prosecutors will also highlight allegations from Regusters’ past. The woman was accused of touching the 7-year-old daughter of a cousin, prosecutors said. They say there was also another incident at a daycare, but did not expand on those allegations.
There is a gag order in effect with the case, but in the past Regusters and her attorney have denied the rape claims. She had to be moved to a Lehigh Valley prison to await trial after being assaulted in a city prison.
The case has rocked the city, resulted in criminal and civil lawsuits and inquiries about school security. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the case gave him nightmares. The girl's family filed civil lawsuits against Regusters and the School District of Philadelphia.
There have been allegations that other people were involved in the girl's kidnapping and assault, but Regusters stands as the only one charged.
The trial is now set to begin on Monday at 9 a.m.