A jury Friday found Kelso resident Robert Munger guilty of child rape, concluding a four-day trial and a two-year effort that convicted him of six child sex crimes.
Jurors deliberated less than three hours before finding that Munger sexually assaulted the victim, who was nine years old at the time of the assault.
Munger was convicted of two counts of child molestation against the same girl in an October trial, but the jury then deadlocked on the first-degree child rape charge. So he was re-tried and convicted of that charge this week.
Police arrested Munger, 70, in June 2017 a day after the victim, now 12, spoke with investigators. She described one occasion in which she was too scared to move or tell Munger to stop when he sexually assaulted her, because Munger had become mad at her before. After that assault, Munger threatened to have her evicted if she told anyone, the victim testified.
The jury got the case at about 11 a.m. following lengthy closing arguments and reached a verdict by early afternoon. Munger, who remains in the Cowlitz County Jail, chose not to attend the verdict announcement but attended closing arguments in the morning.
Munger now has been convicted of six of seven child sex allegations. In June he pleaded guilty to first- and second-degree possession of child pornography. A jury convicted him of first-degree child molestation in October. And a jury convicted him of two counts of child molestation, also in October. Prosecutors have dropped one charge of first-degree possession of child pornography. Among his victims were two local girls under the age of 12, in addition to the victims portrayed in the child porn.
Munger will be sentenced for all of the convictions on Dec. 27. He’ll likely get a minimum of 20 years in prison before being eligible for parole, said Cowlitz County Prosecutor Ryan Jurvakainen.
Munger had no prior criminal history, Jurvakainen said.
Cowlitz Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jason Laurine began his closing arguments by reminding jurors about the victim’s vivid testimony about the sexual abuse. At one point, he walked over to the defense’s table and stood several feet away from Munger. Staring down directly at the defendant, Laurine slowly repeated the victim’s disturbing testimony.
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The victim’s story had been consistent, Laurine told jurors, and was bolstered by witness testimony and physical evidence including love letters written by Munger.
Defense attorney James Curtis pointed out numerous inconsistencies in witness testimony, much of which came from juvenile witnesses. Some witnesses offered contradicting versions of their conversations about Munger’s history of abuse, while others gave contradicting testimony about what exactly they had seen.
Curtis asked jurors to reconcile those discrepancies before making a decision.
“There are many ways to reconcile,” Curtis said. “Passage of time, that could be a way to do it. A child’s memory: They’re children. They forget things. ... We’re talking about trauma. That’s another reason for the discrepancies. But they have to be discussed. There may be a reason for it.”
“You might get frustrated because you want to convict Bob, beyond a reasonable doubt,” Curtis concluded. “(But) if you take shortcuts here, what does that do to our criminal justice system?”
Curtis called no witnesses. Munger appeared willing to testify but ultimately declined to do so.
Before the verdict, Laurine told Superior Court Judge Michael Evans that the prosecution would not seek an aggravating circumstance to the conviction, which could have increased Munger’s prison sentence.
“We want to avoid any appellate issue and potentially creating bad, damaging case law going forward,” Laurine said.
“You already have that,” Munger replied sharply.