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Jury exonerates man of indecent assault charges

Joseph Gares Sr. aquitted of allegations after being detained since January 2019

LEWISTOWN — Joseph Allen Gares Sr., of New Jersey, was acquitted on all charges during a jury trial Wednesday afternoon at the Mifflin County Court House.

Gares faced charges of aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, corruption of a minor and indecent assault without consent, which were filed Jan. 1, 2019. Gares had been held at the Mifflin County Correctional Facility, unable to post $100,000 bail, since Jan. 28, 2019.

Gares was accused of assault by a female who was nine years old at the time of the alleged crime.

The mother of the accuser testified first. She said she held a birthday party for her daughter at her home in February 2013. The mother said adults at the party were drinking. She continued, saying Gares and his wife, Donna, slept on her couch that night. In ther account, Gares was awake before everyone else the following morning and seated on a chair, rather than the couch.

The mother said her family subsequently moved into Gares’ house in New Jersey to save money. She said Gares later kicked them out because she allegedly put a stop to “sleepovers” between Gares and the accuser.

The mother, when questioned by the defense, said her daughter was not scared of Gares.

The girl’s mother testified that she received a call from her estranged husband in 2018, during which he claimed her daughter had been “touched” by Gares. She then reported this to Children and Youth.

The daughter testified that she remembered the adults drinking (Gares included) on the night of the alleged offense and that she slept in bed with a sibling. She recalled waking up to touching over and under her clothes. She said it was dark, she didn’t see him enter the room and Gares didn’t say anything to her.

She recounted Gares leaving, only to return moments later and continue the same behavior, telling her to “keep it a secret.” The accuser said she had no fear of Gares when her family lived with him or any time after the incident.

Kristin Lindsey, a former case manager for Mifflin County Children and Youth, said she received a call from the mother regarding possible sexual abuse. Lindsey stated she phoned and questioned the accuser at her house, alone, in 2018.

Michael Elder, of the Pennsylvania State Police, was assigned the investigation and received a written statement from the accuser. The defense argued that Elder did not investigate the crime scene or interview the defendant or the sibling.

Gares testified that he always had a good relationship with the accuser. The defendant said he got drunk that night, couldn’t walk by himself and needed helped to the couch. He said he felt so paralyzed that he slept through the night.

According to Gares, he was the last one up the next morning, said goodbye and went home. The defendant said the relationship with the girl’s family was good until a few months after moving in with him and his wife.

The defendant said he had no contact with the family until receiving a call from police about the incident. The defendant said “I would never touch (the accuser).”

Larry Gares, the defendant’s brother, said the accuser and the defendant shared no animosity during the times he witnessed them together. The defense showed Gares a picture of himself, the defendant and the accuser interacting without incident after the alleged crime.

Donna Gares, the defendant’s wife, testified last. She stated that the accuser and the defendant always had a good relationship. Pictures entered into evidence showed the defendant and accuser both before and after the alleged incident. In the photographs, both the accuser and the defendant were smiling.

Donna said the trailer was small and the girls’ room was a mess. She claimed she was a light sleeper and would have been awakened by someone walking around.

The jury of 13 people found Gares not guilty of all charges.

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