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Douglas Edwards verdict
Waiting with Douglas Edwards verdict (Photo: Kirsten Gutierrez/WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — It was a child abduction that gripped our community one year ago. And today, after deliberating for hours a jury found Douglas Edwards guilty of multiple charges including kidnapping and attempted murder of a six-year-old girl.

The jury also found Edwards guilty of two counts of indecent liberties with a child, assault with a deadly weapon and statutory sexual offense. Edwards however was found not guilty of obstruction and intimidating the witness.

Earlier today, closing arguments were made.

Yesterday, Edwards took the stand in his own trial before testimony wrapped up for the case. Edwards told the jury he did not remember leaving work on September 14, 2016 or taking a six-year-old child on his moped. 

Edwards said the next thing he could remember was being in the middle of a neighborhood he had never been in before and a little girl was on his moped. Edwards also denied sexually assaulting the girl contradicting what the now seven-year-old child testified on Monday. 

Court resumed at 9:30 a.m. Neither side objected to the instructions that will be given to the jury after closing statements.

The defense started closing arguments by saying they hope the child in this case never has to answer any more questions again.

“This is about a man who took the girl and chained her to a tree,” Defense attorney Ken Hatcher said. “My client is an easy target.”

Hatcher began talking about the attempted first degree murder charge.

“Has the state presented sufficient evidence of the guilt of intent to kill?” Hatcher asked the jury.

Hatcher started reiterating Edwards’ testimony from yesterday. He said Edwards took the girl into the woods, chained her to the tree. Then, he said Edwards got on a scooter to go to his mother’s house. Hatcher said Edwards got pulled over on his way home.

Hatcher then goes over the FBI investigation on the cell tower reports from Edwards’ cell phone that day. Hatcher said the point he was trying to make is that Edwards and the girl were not together that long according to the cell phone data.

Hatcher talks about the DNA evidence from both Edwards and the girl. Hatcher said there is no DNA evidence to support sexual contact.

Hatcher reminded the jury that Edwards took detectives to the recovery site and Edwards did not know the girl had been recovered at that point and he acknowledged that he took her. Hatcher told the jury to take Edwards the way he comes.

“Edwards is not a sophisticated guy,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher said Edwards grew up around a mom who had drug problems. Hatcher said Edwards does not know much about the outdoors and wildlife that could have been in the woods.

Hatcher said there is no evidence of premeditation, deliberation or intent to kill. He said Edwards used a chain from his moped to lock the girl up. Hatcher said the state has overcharged. Hatcher said it is a stretch to say Edwards was trying to kill the girl by not considering the wildlife in the woods that day.

Hatcher said the fact that Edwards told police he would take them to the girl is proof that he did not intend to kill her, so you (the jury) should find him not guilty.

Hatcher started talking about the girl’s testimony about Edwards sticking his finger in her genitals. Hatcher said the word the child used for her genitals is an adult word. Hatcher thinks that testimony (about sticking his fingers there) was suggested by the adults the child talked to over several weeks.

Hatcher also said when the child said “nuts”, that was also a word she got from adults. Hatcher said she was coached, but he said he wasn’t saying that she lied, just that she was coached.

Hatcher suggested that the blunt force trauma on the girl could have been her own finger, because there was no DNA evidence on her. Hatcher said Edwards’ finger nails were dirty. Hatcher said if he had touched her then, that should have shown up in the DNA evidence.

In regards to the assault with a weapon inflicting serious injury charge, Hatcher said Edwards used the chain to keep her safe not to injure her. Hatcher said he just chained the girl to a tree around her neck to restrain and secure her.

Hatcher also said Edwards is not guilty of first degree kidnapping. He said it should be felonious restraint, not kidnapping.

Hatcher said the girl said Edwards kissed her on the mouth, and exposed himself to her, but there is no DNA evidence. Because of that, Hatcher said Edwards is not guilty of indecent liberties with a child.

Hatcher said Edwards was so worried about the harassment in the media and that is why he sent a letter to the child’s parents.

Finally, Hatcher finished by telling the jury he knows this case involving a 6-year-old child is surrounded by emotions. He asked the jury to make a decision not based on those emotions, but on reason.

District Attorney Ben David started closing arguments talking about beauty in the world that many parents see through their children.

David said this trial is about a very dark place. David called the CAD report, on the initial 911 call, real life horror.

“Who would do this to a child?” David said.

David said he picked this jury for a reason, because he said they follow the law.

“You don’t base verdicts on emotion,” David said. “I agree with Mr. Hatcher on that.”

David said addressed the tactic of deceiving the jury that Hatcher talked about.

“Guilty,” David said. You know why we did that? Because the only way they can get the defendant’s version out is to make him testify and he did.”

David started talking about Edwards’ testimony and how he tried to say the kiss on her forehead was to reassure her and the chain was to keep her safe.

“The chain was to keep her safe if you can believe that? That’s insulting to your intelligence,” David said.

David talks about the chain and how Edwards’ story did not add up about why he used that to keep her safe. David said the chain is a deadly weapon.

David said just because there are not marks on the girl, that does not mean this is not something that is going to affect her for the rest of her life.

Then, David starts talking about the indecent liberties with a child charge. David said the girl knows how to say those adult words because it happened just like the other assault victim.

David talking about why they initially charged rape, but he says they didn’t overcharge. David said he was the one who dismissed the rape charge, because there was no evidence, not the judge.

David said 7-10 minutes is a lifetime. David said Edwards could have done all of these things five times in that amount of time. David said it does not take you 10 minutes to put a chain around a child’s neck.

David said if Edwards kissed the girl on the forehead like he said, then why was there no DNA?

David started talking about attempted murder. He said the state has to prove intent and that he failed.

David said the chain is the deadly weapon. Then, he starts talking about premeditation. David said Edwards had two locks on him. He said that is premeditation and deliberation.

“He chained her to the ground,” David said. “That was torturous. He didn’t put a jacket on her.”

David said Edwards is not credible.

“He was not thinking about her well being. He was thinking about his,” David said.

David talked about Edwards’ testimony.

“No remorse, no compassion, no empathy,” David said. “That was damage control what you saw up there.”

The state wants the jury to find Edwards guilty of first degree kidnapping, taking indecent liberties with a child (two counts), assault with a deadly weapon, and attempted murder.

Closing arguments finished up around 12:30 p.m. and then the judge read instructions to the jury. Jury deliberations began this afternoon.

It took nearly three hours for the jury to reach a verdict. The jury is responsible for Edwards’ sentencing as well, that will be decided tomorrow morning.

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