Jackson Man Begins Trial on Kidnapping, Rape Charges

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After almost two years, Zachary R. Dunn’s trial has begun. The prosecution kicked off its case against Dunn Thursday afternoon with opening statements that outlined the alleged chain of events that lead to Dunn’s arrest.

Dunn is charged with three counts of kidnapping, two counts of abduction, one count of rape, two counts of gross sexual imposition and one count of felonious assault.

All charges are felonies, with the kidnapping and rape charges being first-degree felonies.

The charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred on July 26, 2013. On that date, a six-year-old Jackson girl was reported to have been abducted from the porch of her Chestnut Street home at about 1:30 a.m.

Law enforcement officers from all over the area, along with water rescue teams and fire departments searched for the child.

Approximately 14 hours after her abduction, the child reportedly wandered into the backyard of a home on Oakland Road in Liberty Township. It was also reported that she appeared to be injured and unclothed.

At about 3 p.m. on March 18, the last of the jurors were seated along with three alternates.

On March 19, the jurors received instructions and were taken to sites pertaining to the case before the opening statements.

Eight women and four men comprise the jury, along with three female alternates.

Assistant Prosecutor Angela Canepa began the opening statements by telling the jury about the day the girl was reported to have disappeared. Canepa talked about the 16-year-old male babysitter who was called to the home of the girl around 11 p.m. on July 25, to watch two children while the father left to help his son fix a tire.

The assistant prosecutor told jurors that, according to the evidence they had, while the father was gone, Dunn came to the home to check on a CD player he had asked about earlier, and when he left, the male babysitter realized the child was gone, too.

Canepa talked about the massive search that was conducted for the little girl and that later that day three residents of a home on Oakland Road reported the child had shown up in their back yard. The child had injuries to her face, neck, hands, and other parts of her body, consistant to being hit, Canepa informed the jurors.

“We will prove that defendant Zachary Dunn, kidnapped this child, raped her, and left her for dead,” Canepa stated. “But thankfully she wasn’t dead, and wandered to the residence of a caring family. Had she gone the other way, she would have gone right to the house of one of Dunn’s friends.”

The prosecutors also stated they had DNA evidence on a coat found in a cemetery near the Oakland Road residence, along with DNA evidence on the door handle of the car Dunn was reported to be driving that night.

The defense attorneys tried to poke holes in the statements made by the prosecutors. Defense attorney Doug Francis focused more on what he claimed were lies made by the 16-year-old babysitter and he questioned how anything the teen said could be believed.

Francis noted timeline errors in teen’s statements, including the accusation that the teenager had changed clothes that night, even though he denied it.

Francis indicated some other things would come into play during the trial, and stated the defendant may or may not testify.

“We all know a terrible thing happened to this child,” Francis concluded. “But the question is, who did it to her? We need to make sure we get the right person, and make the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zach Dunn did this.”

They moved on to the first two witnesses of the trial, before adjourning for the day. The trial is expected to last approximately two and a half weeks, with numerous witnesses slated to testify.