DA drops case against suspect in sex assault
A Whitewater man arrested by Mesa County sheriff’s deputies last week on suspicion of molesting a 10-year-old girl walked out of jail on Tuesday after the District Attorney’s Office concluded a crime couldn’t be proven.
Tillman Clifton, 38, was freed after prosecutors filed a motion indicating the alleged victim in the case — during a follow-up interview shortly after Clifton’s arrest — denied she was ever touched inappropriately by Clifton in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 19 at a home in Whitewater. The girl was interviewed that same day at the Western Slope Center for Children, just hours after Clifton was booked at the Mesa County Jail on suspicion of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust.
Sheriff’s investigator Jim Hebenstreit sat down with the girl.
“During the course of the interview, the victim was unable to describe an actual touching of her intimate parts by the defendant or her touching the defendant’s intimate parts,” reads a motion to dismiss, which was filed Tuesday by Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Hand.
“The victim denied a touching of her intimate parts by the defendant. Additionally, the victim denied any touching of the defendant’s intimate parts by her.”
The DA’s motion to dismiss was filed without prejudice, meaning charges can be filed again if new evidence develops. Clifton was released from jail Tuesday after a full week in custody.
Arresting deputies never had a statement from the suspected victim in the case specifying that she was inappropriately touched, while court records suggest they relied partly on the girl’s description of events using her toys.
According to an arrest affidavit, Clifton called 911 around 2 a.m. Feb. 19 to report he’d been locked out of a home by his wife, who was accusing him of molesting her 10-year-old daughter.
The girl’s mother told deputies she woke up and found Clifton sleeping on a living room floor next to the girl. She observed he was only wearing a pair of gym shorts and no shirt and saw lotion and a towel nearby, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit said the girl recalled being woken up by Clifton because he told her she’d fallen out of bed, although she couldn’t recall falling out of bed. She said she remembered Clifton carrying her to a couch in the living room and covering her with a blanket. She said she fell asleep before she woke again with Clifton “jumping on her,” the affidavit said.
She said he made her lie on her back and spread her legs.
Deputies then asked the girl to use a stuffed animal and doll to describe what happened next.
“(Girl) told me he was leaning over her jumping,” the affidavit said. “(Girl) had the doll laying flat on its back and had the stuffed animal on top of the doll. “When (girl) said that he was leaning over jumping she made thrusting motions with the stuffed animal toward the doll on the ground.”
She said he made her change positions several times on the couch, and later rubbed lotion on her arms.
“(Girl) told me just before her mother came out into the living room she was still on the couch and Cliff was on the floor he grabbed her legs and wrapped them around his neck,” the affidavit said.
Deputies surmised there was probable cause a crime occurred.
“It is believed that there was touching of intimate parts on the outside of the clothing,” the affidavit said. “(Girl’s) description as well as her demonstration with the stuffed animals it appears (she) was describing Mr. Clifton was ‘grinding’ his genital area against hers during this incident.”
The girl described a similar incident involving Clifton last summer, when he allegedly picked her up and set her on his lap and started “shaking,” the affidavit said.
Clifton denied touching the girl and, explaining the presence of the towel and lotion on a living room table, said he was masturbating and at some point noticed the girl had fallen out of bed before he carried her to the couch.
Clifton also acknowledged the presence of a 14-year-old girl in the home as well, saying, “if he was going to touch one of them or do something with one of them it would be the 14-year-old and not the 10-year-old,” the affidavit said.
Clifton’s relationship with the two girls isn’t specified.