Lucinda Hites-Clabaugh
Convicted of Sexually Assaulting a young girl

Enter the name for this tabbed section: 2012 June Conviction Reversed


Substitute teacher's sex-abuse conviction reversed by Oregon Court of Appeals

Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012, 5:34 PM     Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2012, 8:19 PM

388 By Helen Jung, The Oregonian

The Oregon Court of Appeals on Wednesday
reversed the 2009 conviction of a substitute teacher who was found guilty of sex abuse despite no physical evidence, no witnesses and a police officer's admitted failures to follow investigative protocols.

The appeals court ordered that the case against Lucinda Hites-Clabaugh be sent back to Marion County.

The court found that Marion County Circuit Judge Dale Penn should have allowed the defense to call an expert witness who would have testified about the ways the officer failed to follow procedures and why those procedures are important for conducting a valid child-abuse investigation.

Marion County Deputy District Attorney Nicole Theobald said she is reviewing the opinion and has not made a decision regarding the case against the 55-year-old Forest Grove woman.

The case stems from an alleged encounter when Hites-Clabaugh served as a substitute teacher for two days in May 2008 in a Woodburn third-grade class.

According to the appeals court's account, Hites-Clabaugh took the class to restrooms in a hallway where the students lined up one morning after recess.

She then allegedly took a female third-grade student around the corner and closed a fire door. She was accused of using one hand to grab the student's crotch over her clothing, while using the other to keep the door closed or to hold onto the student, who was trying to push her away. The alleged grabbing lasted for about one minute. Hites-Clabaugh then allowed the student to return to the others, but later told her not to say anything, according to the account.

When the regular teacher returned to work, the student told her that the substitute teacher had touched her between the legs, according to the account, triggering the investigation by Woodburn police.

The opinion raises several questions about the case against Hites-Clabaugh, noting that the Woodburn officer did not view the school hallway where the alleged abuse occurred and did not interview any other students or teachers. The student could not name the substitute teacher nor could she identify Hites-Clabaugh at the trial. The police officer admitted that he did not know the county's protocols for investigating child abuse.

Hites-Clabaugh maintained that the abuse never took place, but a jury found her guilty in a 10-2 verdict. Hites-Clabaugh started serving a prison sentence of six years and three months in August 2010.

Hites-Clabaugh was happy to hear the news Wednesday and was anxious for what happens next, said her husband, David Hites-Clabaugh, who said he was feeling "kind of overwhelmed."

But he said he hoped the Marion County district attorney's office drops the case. "They're not seeking justice, they're just seeking convictions," he said.

The appeals court did not rule on another argument that her lawyer, Mark Geiger had made regarding new evidence. When contacted, five students told the defense team that Hites-Clabaugh did not pull anyone out of the bathroom line, as the complainant alleged.

--Helen Jung

Follow @helenjung