ANGOLA — Three boys — 13, 11 and 9 years old — each spent about an hour on the stand Thursday morning in Steuben Superior Court before a Steuben County jury.
They are the alleged victims of Tylarr James Tagliaferri, 24, of Angola, who babysat them on Thursdays for more than a year until molesting allegations were raised in July 2016.
Tagliaferri is charged with three Level 1 felony counts of child molesting, one for each child, and three Level 3 felony child molesting counts. Another Level 1 felony child molesting charge refers to the use of deadly force because Tagliaferri allegedly threatened his victims with a machete.
When he would refuse to provide Tagliaferri with oral sex, said the 11-year-old, Tagliaferri made moves toward his machete, which was kept at the top of a kitchen cabinet.
“It looked like he was reaching for it,” said the boy.
Throughout Thursday morning’s testimony, one could frequently read concern and sadness on the faces of the 12 jurors and two alternates assembled Wednesday to hear the case, which will continue on Friday.
Prosecutor Jeremy Musser and Deputy Prosecutor Travis Musser tag teamed on questioning, with Travis questioning the children.
Though their concepts of time were different, all three of the boys said the molesting did not start the first week of a babysitting arrangement. Tagliaferri and his now-wife Ella would watch the three boys, cared for by their grandmother, Heather Su Sheets, once a week. In return, Sheets, Ella’s mother, would take their toddler one day a week.
The 13-year-old spent the most time under oath and rigorous examination. He was the one who reported the abuse to a family friend, Cory Bussing, who was also called to the stand Thursday.
Bussing said he considers Sheets a mother figure and looks at the three boys as brothers. He and two of the boys were watching a movie in early July 2016 when he noticed the oldest was visibly distraught.
“I asked him what was wrong,” said Bussing. The boy told him, he testified, that he didn’t want to go to stay with Tagliaferri.
“He said he made them do things to him,” Bussing said.
After finding out about the allegations that evening, Sheets said she spoke to each child individually, and all three said they’d been forced to submit to sexual activity.
Before she learned of the alleged molesting, she said she noticed changes.
“The boys started having nightmares,” she said. “It’s still going on.”
The Mussers’ witnesses included Auburn psychologist Dr. Judith Williams and Steuben County Sheriff’s Department Detective Chris Emerick, who investigated the case.
An hours-long interview between Emerick and Tagliaferri prior to Tagliaferri’s arrest July 18, 2016, had not been presented to the jury as of Thursday evening. A shortened version had been prepared by the prosecution but due to recent case law, Judge William Fee ruled only the latter portion of the recording, after Tagilaferri’s Miranda rights were read, would be admissible.
Carpet samples were collected by Emerick in Tagliaferri’s living room due to the likely presence of bodily secretions in those locations. The jury was presented with a written stipulation on the findings of the Indiana State Police lab tests. While they may have been negative, Emerick testified that bacteria, dirt, cleaning fluids and other wear could affect a DNA collection.
The prosecution rested its case at 4:10 p.m.
Tagliaferri’s court-appointed attorney Eugene Bosworth called two character witnesses to the stand before testimony concluded for the evening on Thursday. Both associated with Tagliaferri through their jobs at KFC, where Ella worked, and Tagliaferri also briefly worked.
If the jury finds Tagliaferri guilty of any or all of the charges, a sentencing date will be set before Fee.
A Level 1 felony carries up to 40 years in prison and a Level 3, up to 16 years. Tagliaferri served about two years in Steuben County Jail before a $50,000 surety bond was posted on March 20, 2018.
The trial resumes this morning.