- Associated Press - Friday, September 5, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Four family members were home in a small row house the day a 5-year-old girl says she was held captive there and sexually brutalized, according to testimony in a school kidnapping trial on Friday.

Prosecutors have argued that 21-year-old defendant Christina Regusters acted alone in the sordid crime, which began when the girl was abducted from her Philadelphia classroom by a woman posing as her mother, in a long Muslim dress and veil.

Regusters’ aunt Valerie Williams testified Friday that she saw Regusters come home that day in January 2013 carrying a bag over her shoulder. Williams said she had thought her niece was still in bed.

Under cross-examination, she said she did not see anyone, such as the girl, squirming inside the bag.

Williams, a transit worker, and her boyfriend were home nearly the entire day, and a school-age grandson was home that evening, she said. Yet, she said, she never heard or saw the girl, who suffered devastating physical injuries when she was sodomized with an unknown object.

The girl testified last week that she was blindfolded during the 19-hour ordeal, except for a peek at the back of the house when she was led outside, in the dark, the next morning. And she said she was told not to talk or scream, lest a talking bird in the house peck her eyes out.

The girl’s discussion of the bird was a key clue that helped lead police to Williams’ home, after an anonymous tip that the family had discussed the crime.

Regusters was arrested the following month, although the girl, based on what she was told while blindfolded, believed she had been attacked by a man.

Defense lawyer W. Fred Harrison Jr. tried to raise doubts about the prosecution’s theory of the case in cross-examining Williams. She acknowledged that she saw Regusters a few times in the house that day and took her medicine as she had been sick the night before.

Regusters, who lived with Williams, was serving a short suspension from her job at a day care center the girl attended after school.

Williams said that her niece initiated a conversation about the school kidnapping that afternoon, when prosecutors believe the girl was hidden under a bed upstairs.

Williams also told jurors that she owns the foul-mouthed macaw the girl described and said she had given it a shower upstairs that day, near the bedrooms. She said that, despite a creaky staircase, she never heard anyone walk downstairs and leave the house at 4 a.m., when the girl was found abandoned at a nearby playground.

The trial, which began two weeks ago, is expected to conclude next week.

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