03/05/06 — Wayne man not guilty of molestion charges

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Wayne man not guilty of molestion charges

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on March 5, 2006 2:09 AM

A 67-year-old Wayne County man who allegedly confessed to molesting two young girls and was sentenced to 45 years in prison walked away from court a free man last week after being acquitted in a new trial.

Douglas Mitchell of Lancaster Road, Pikeville, had been accused of sexually molesting the two girls over a period of several years. He was found not guilty by a jury after his second trial in Wayne County Superior Court.

A guilty verdict in 2003 was overturned by the N.C. Court of Appeals because of a judicial error.

Prosecutor Terry Light was not pleased with the verdict, saying the jury "made the wrong decision."

But jury foreman Stephen Fritz told the News-Argus afterward that "we figured they didn't prove a thing."

He said the jurors discounted Mitchell's alleged confession because it was not tape-recorded or witnessed by a second person.

"That's the first thing we did," said Fritz. "We threw out the confession."

"I felt sorry for the kids. We thought he had done something. But if we convicted him of one thing, we had to do it on all things. They just didn't prove their case."

The trial took four days.

The two girls were about 5 and 13 years old when the alleged incidents took place. They now live out of Wayne County.

Fritz said a comment by one of the girls overhead by the jury, influenced their decision.

When she returned to the audience from the witness stand, Fritz said she said to an adult, "You made me do this. I hate you all."

"We all heard it," Fritz said.

The jury deliberated for an hour and 51 minutes over two days. On the first vote, Fritz said only five people thought he was guilty of something.

Mitchell was granted a new trial last year, because the appellate court ruled that some testimony should not have been admitted in the first trial.