Baston could receive up to 50 years in prison
Jury returns guilty verdict

Wanda English Burnett

Pictured Captain David Pippin, left, of the Ripley County Sheriff's Office, escorts Robert Baston from the courthouse after a jury found him guilty of Child Molesting. Baston could receive up to 50 years in prison and a $10,000 fine when he is sentenced on July 1.

It only took a jury about two hours to come back with a guilty verdict in the case against Robert Baston, 41, of Milan.

The formal charge of Child Molesting, a Class A Felony, had been charged by Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel.

The story unfolded a summer party on August 16 of last year at the home of Sondra Strezeski, mother of the defendant, where a six year old girl who had been visiting with her father from Newport, KY, claimed she had been sexually assaulted by the defendant.

The jury would hear how Baston took the child on a 4-wheeler ride where she tells in age appropriate, explicit detail what happened.

The child immediately told her father and whoever was in listening range about the incident upon returning from the ride.

The father of the child, who is a brother to the defendant’s wife, immediately left the party.

But, there were hurdles for him as well. He and his daughter had been brought to the party by his sister as he didn't have a vehicle.

He asked his sister to take them home, to which she agreed. Then when he was seated in the back seat with his daughter, he testified that the defendant jumped in the driver’s seat. Defense questioned his reasoning regarding having his daughter anywhere near Baston. He explained it all happened fast and on hindsight he probably would have done things differently. “I just wanted to get my daughter out of there,” he said.

The child was taken yet that night to St. Luke Hospital (the closest to the home of the victim’s family) and then on to Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, where she was examined and evidence collected.

Dr. Shapiro, a renowned doctor in pediatrics specializing in cases such as this, was another key witness for the State. When asked by Prosecutor Hertel “Did you diagnose this as a sexual assault?” he answered, “yes.”

In opening statements even defense attorneys recognized the doctor’s expertise.
Through investigation ISP Detective Tracy Rohlfing would learn the perpetrator’s name and what had taken place.

John Pritchett, a forensic biologist with the ISP crime lab, Indianapolis, testified to the results of items he examined.

The interior crotch area of the bathing suit the child was wearing gave the most telling evidence. Pritchett said the results revealed Baston had the major DNA profile on one cutting; the child’s DNA had the major DNA profile on the second cutting, and the third cutting showed a mixture of both.

He said that only one other person in the Caucasian population in 24 trillion would have the same DNA profile as Baston, unless he has an identical twin - which he does not.

While the defendant said a possible motive for the child’s story could be money or that she was trying to reunite her parents, the jury saw something different.

One of the jurors told the Osgood Journal, “we just listened to all of the evidence and testimony and all came to the same conclusion, he was guilty.”

They followed the instruction of the law read to them by Circuit Court Judge Carl Taul to arrive at their decision.

The jury was a particular attentive one with jurors asking more questions of their own than defense and the prosecutor had seen in other cases.

When the guilty verdict was read, Baston remained as he had been throughout the trial, without any expression of emotion.

Baston had posted bail after his initial arrest, but was rearrested after violating an order not to have contact with a witness. He was remanded to the Ripley County Jail following the trial where he will remain until sentencing on July 1. He could get up to 50 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

Baston was represented by three attorneys - Tim Day, Jay Hoffman and Brian Newcomb.
Prosecutor Hertel thanked the Indiana State Police for getting involved in the case and investigating it to the very end. He noted, “Detective Rohlfing worked tirelessly throughout.” He also thanked the multiple medical personnel at Children’s Hospital including doctors, nurses and social workers. “They were and are a tremendous resource to our community, it is an honor to work with them,” Hertel told the Osgood Journal.

He further noted that the county should note the bravery of a six-year-old girl who was the victim of a horrible crime and was able to testify about it in open court. He also thanked the jury for being so attentive throughout the trial. “Four days of trial and nearly 100 exhibits is a lot of work and time away from their day to day lives,” he concluded.