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August 13, 2013

Woman recalls alleged sexual abuse while defendant denies involvement

EBENSBURG — A former Johnstown woman testified Monday that she had been molested by a man beginning when she was age 6 with touching and progressing to intercourse by age 9.

The woman was unemotional as she recalled for a Cambria County jury the progression of the alleged abuse by Albert Baldish Sr. at a location in the city and near Riverside.

The woman, now 29, and living in the Jeannette area, said at one point she was forced to have sex with a male slighty older than her. She recalled another time when a man she did not know watched as her abuser raped her and a time she was forced to have sex with a woman.

Baldish, 49, of the 500 block of Vine Street, is represented by Cambria County Public Defender Ryan Gleason, who told the jury his client denies any sexual involvement with the alleged victim.

He promised in his opening statement that he will prove through inconsistencies in statements to police and in letters that the story is fabricated.

Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Beth Bolton Penna wrapped up her case following the testimony of Johnstown police Detective Julie Wagner, who outlined statements she took from the alleged victim and her investigation.

The defense will present its side this morning and the case likely will go to the jury today.

Baldish, who worked as a school bus driver for a private transportation company and for the Cambria County Transit Authority, is charged with a total of 51 counts including rape, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and related charges.

Penna said the assaults occurred hundreds of time, but Baldish was charged with rape and related charges on the basis of one count for each charge per year.

The prosecution said the molesting began when the girl was 6 and concluded when she was about 15 from 1990 through the late 1990s.

The woman testified that she never told anyone about the incidents because the man initially told her to keep it a secret. As years went by and the molesting continued, he threatened he would commit suicide if she spoke of his actions.

She was removed from the home in 1999 by Cambria County Children and Youth Services, but told investigators that nothing had happened.

In a letter she wrote in 2007, she again denied the allegations, but went to authorities in 2011.

She recalled Monday being raped on a couch, in a bed and on the bathroom floor, including one time on a “cold and hard” radiator when she was 9.

In cross examining the woman, Gleason brought out inconsistencies between her testimony Monday, what she said at a preliminary hearing last year and information provided to authorities.

They included her age when the abuse began, if a condom was used and times of day and locations of the incidents.

But the woman stuck with her testimony.

“It was wrong. I shouldn’t have had to go through that,” she said. “I shouldn’t have had to live like that.”

No charges have been filed against the woman or the man who watched, authorities said, because they have not been located.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellottTD.

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