A Bellevue man faces up to life in prison after a four-day jury trial found him guilty of raping a 12-year-old girl last November.

Following his conviction on Sept. 10, Edward Williams, 46, is scheduled for a sentencing hearing in 5th District Court on Nov. 15. In the meantime, he will need to undergo a psychological and psychosexual exam, District Judge Ned Williamson ruled.

Williams was initially booked into the Blaine County jail on the felony charge on Dec. 16, 2020. His bond was set at $50,000.

According to a probable-cause-for-arrest affidavit written by Bellevue Deputy Marshal Kirtus Gaston, on Dec. 14, Marshal Mynde Heil was informed of a possible sex crime in November involving Williams.

In an interview conducted on the day of Williams’ arrest by St. Luke’s Children At Risk Evaluation Services (CARES)—a medical and forensic examination service in Twin Falls—the victim disclosed a pattern of sexual and physical violence at the hands of Williams, Gaston wrote.

The first incident reported by the victim occurred when she was 11 and her mother was away assisting a friend who was recovering from surgery, according to the probable-cause affidavit. Williams became intoxicated and forcibly groped the victim, she told CARES staff. When the girl pushed his hands away, he slapped her and threatened her with a handgun, “waving it around” and pulling “the trigger once, knowing it was unloaded,” the affidavit states.

A second incident reported by the victim occurred in September 2020 when Williams took her on a hunting trip between Mackay and Challis, according to the affidavit. According to the victim’s account, Williams served her alcohol, took her clothes off, laid on top of her and choked her to the point of unconsciousness.

A third incident—the primary focus of the trial—occurred between Nov. 14 and Nov. 15, 2020, after the victim’s mother left her two children in Williams’ care for the night, the affidavit states. Williams directed the victim to the bathroom and instructed her to shower and remove her clothes before forcibly taking her back to his bedroom, where he laid on top of her and raped her, waking a younger sibling, the victim reported. Williams then threatened the victim, telling her that he would “hurt her, [her sibling] and their mother if she told anyone,” according to the affidavit.

Williams had previously been convicted of two felonies; in November 2006 of grand theft in Lewis County and in January 2008 of aggravated battery in Fremont County. Williams was imprisoned between 2006 and 2014 and completed sentences for both crimes in May 2018 and May 2020, respectively, court records show.

Due to his past two felony convictions, Williams is deemed a “persistent violator of the law” by the state of Idaho, a judgment which allows a sentencing enhancement of at least five years after a third felony conviction. District Judge Ned Williamson stated that he will not seek a sentencing enhancement on Nov. 15.

The path to trial

In a preliminary hearing on Dec. 29, the victim reiterated the sex crimes she had reported earlier and stated that Williams had provided alcohol to both siblings on Nov. 14, causing them to feel ill. According to testimony from Heil, the victim had confided in a close friend about the rape just weeks after it occurred. Around Dec. 14, the friend’s mother uncovered text messages between the two girls referencing the crime and promptly notified Heil, the marshal said.

According to Gaston, the Bellevue Marshal’s Office did not collect any bedding, clothing or DNA from the home after the investigation began on Dec. 14. That was because more than three weeks had elapsed since the crime and evidence was no longer useful, Heil said. On Dec. 29, Williams’ attorney, Chief Public Defender Justin McCarthy, argued that the victim’s account was unreliable and—as Gaston noted—lacked corroborating physical evidence. But Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Fredback, representing the state of Idaho, and Judge Daniel Dolan agreed that the victim’s testimony had in fact provided sufficient evidence to bring the charge of rape. On Dec. 30, Williams was officially charged with felony rape.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge in February 2021.

Jury trial spans over 35 hours

At the start of the jury trial on Sept. 7, Fredback and Felony Deputy Prosecutor Stacie Summerhill spent most of the day cross-examining jurors and excusing anyone who felt they could not be impartial or who had relationships with the victim, victim’s family or witnesses.

The state called three witnesses from St. Luke’s CARES: the medical social worker and forensic interviewer who spoke with the victim; the pediatric nurse who examined the girl; and the medical director of CARES.

All three CARES practitioners testified that forensic exams need to be conducted by three to five days after a sexual assault and that the victim’s exam had occurred too long after the reported crime to either confirm or deny rape. The social worker noted a high score from a trauma assessment she’d given the girl, which she said indicated post-traumatic stress disorder.

The victim’s mother and sibling also testified at trial, with the mother recalling her surprise to learn of Williams’ conduct and providing a general outline of his drinking habits. The victim’s sibling mainly focused on pets and hobbies but also provided a witness account of the night of Nov. 14, telling jurors how sick they felt after drinking alcohol that Williams had provided.

On the fourth day of trial, Williams testified under oath that he did not rape the victim, that she had provided false testimony and that the victim and her sibling had stolen and consumed his liquor.

Throughout, the prosecution alluded to Williams’ criminal history and raised repeated questions about his credibility. The credibility of a friend that Williams had called to testify on his behalf—a man who had gotten pizza with Williams on Nov. 14—was also questioned due to a prior felony kidnapping charge from 1998. The witness did not confirm or deny the rape allegation, merely stating that he was unaware of the victim’s activity that night and had not noticed a change in demeanor in the girl in the days following.

The prosecution also seized on discrepancies in what Williams told Gaston in December and what he said on the stand this month; Williams attributed the change to being “terrified” of law enforcement during the interview.

After about 33 hours of witness accounts and arguments—and a nearly two-hour power outage around 3:15 p.m.—the jury deliberated for three hours, arriving at its guilty verdict around 9:45 p.m.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com