By Nancy Drury Duncan —
A jury of five men and seven women returned a verdict of not guilty in the case of 66-year-old Timothy Charles Landolt, charged with the aggravated sexual battery of his then-13-year-old step-granddaughter.
In May 2019, the girl reported alleged sexual abuse to a teacher. Police were called to her school and she was interviewed. She was then taken to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters where she underwent a forensic examination by a specialist in speaking with children about sexual abuse.
The girl, who is on the autism spectrum, appeared as a witness on closed circuit television. She spoke as though she were younger than her current age of 16. She spoke specifically about what happened and where she said her grandfather touched her. “Pop Pop touched my private parts and gave me wine medicine, an alcohol drink supposed to be for grown-ups,” she said.
The girl said this happened frequently at “the beach house,” a second home owned by Landolt whose primary residence is in Delaware. Defense attorneys Taite Westendorf and Bassel Khalaf argued that the defendant has six children and 12 grandchildren and there had never before been any allegations against him. He said the girl was emotional, confused about times and dates, and that she was easily led. Evidence presented was that Landolt was being paid to provide care for the girl. He picked her up from school, helped her with her homework, and gave her dinner before her parents returned from work.
On the witness stand, Landolt denied ever having done anything inappropriate with the girl. He described her as below her age and grade level emotionally.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan presented forensic experts who said DNA evidence from the girl’s right breast was inconclusive but said Landolt could not be excluded as a contributor. “She told you in no uncertain terms what the defendant did to her,” said Morgan in his closing argument.
“The focus in this case should be on the facts,” said Westendorf. “She appears to be a very sweet, very innocent girl.” He described her as “easily confused and easily misled.” He said his client had cooperated with the police investigation from the beginning. “Nothing in his background would suggest this. He was 63 when the allegations occurred.” He suggested the girl was angry at him because he said he was going to rent the beach house and would not be seeing her as much.
The jury deliberated for a little over two hours before finding Landolt not guilty.