Editor’s note: This report contains graphic content that some readers may find disturbing.
A preliminary hearing for a Eureka man accused of multiple counts of sexual abuse of a child began this morning.
Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Schaffer called two witnesses to the stand during the preliminary hearing for Andrew Jarrod Cunningham.
Cunningham faces four counts of sexual abuse of a child younger than 14 and four special allegations related to the age of the victims, offenses against multiple victims and the continuous nature of the offenses committed from January 2012 to December 2015.
The first witness called to the stand was identified as Jane Doe 4 and under questioning from Schaffer she detailed accusations against Cunningham that she said occurred between the ages of 5 and 12.
Jane Doe 4, who is connected to Cunningham through family, said she was around him regularly at family functions, dinners and other get-togethers. She said the first occasion of molestation happened at Cunningham’s Eureka residence where she had been dropped off by a family member when she was “5-ish” and she and her family had traveled to Eureka from Oakland for a visit.
“We were in his office alone, I was sitting in his lap and he proceeded to touch me in the genital areas,” she said.
When Schaffer asked her about any specific details from the first allegation and exactly where he had touched her, she responded, “my vaginal region, with his fingers, rubbing underneath the clothes,” and testified the contact was skin-on-skin.
Jane Doe 4 said that particular incident ended when a family member arrived to pick her up. She described feeling “uncomfortable, just wanting to leave,” and that before she left the office Cunningham threatened her.
“Afterward, he said he would hurt me and the person I told,” Jane Doe 4 said. “I was scared, I had a feeling it wasn’t OK.”
Schaffer then walked her through a second incident that occurred when Jane Doe 4 was older.
“I might have been 8 or 9 at this time, we were at a (family member’s) house but it happened at a park across the street,” she said. “I remember Andrew grabbing me and touching my butt at one point when we were away from the other kids.”
Jane Doe 4 said the other kids, including Cunningham’s children, had run ahead and she was alone with him.
“We stopped walking and he grabbed my butt.”
Schaffer then walked her through a third incident that occurred at a motel after she and family members had traveled to Monterey Bay when she was around 12 years old.
“The youngest kids were in Andrew’s room sleeping and I laid down with them,” Jane Doe 4 said. “Andrew then came in and started groping me, grabbing my butt, I was laying on my stomach.”
“Why did he stop?” Schaffer asked.
Jane Doe 4 responded, “I kind of shrugged and he stopped.”
She added she could remember similar situations happening about six or seven times. But she added the incident in Monterey was the last that happened with her.
Defense attorney Michael Robinson then conducted a cross-examination of Jane Doe 4, closely questioning her about the events as she described them, asking her to describe at what times the alleged events took place and during what time of year.
Robinson asked her about the nature of the touching and asked if it was some sort of roughhousing.
“No,” she testified. “This was sexual in nature; this wasn’t playing around.”
Robinson asked Jane Doe 4 if she had told anyone about the events she described. She said she told her dad just before her family moved to Eureka when she was 12. The house they moved into was a duplex next door to Cunningham in Eureka.
Jane Doe 4 said her father got upset when she told him the details and Robinson asked her what his reaction was.
“He was angry,” she replied.
Jane Doe 4 testified she learned others in the family had been molested when she was around 16.
The investigation into Cunningham’s alleged behavior began this year in March and the second witness called by Schaffer was Humboldt County Sheriff’s Investigator Mark Peterson.
It was Peterson who would watched the interviews between Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 by a child forensic interviewer with the Child Abuse Service’s Team.
Under questioning from Schaffer, Peterson described incidents recounted by both girls, that Cunningham had touched their genitals while they were sleeping over at his house.
“Jane Doe 2 was awakened to one of his (Cunningham’s) hands down her pants on top of her underwear rubbing,” Peterson testified, adding he believed she was about 9 at the time.
“He was rubbing the area she used to go pee,” and then said that Jane Doe 2 then got up and tried to leave but Cunningham told her everything was fine and to go back to sleep.
Peterson described other incidents involving both girls and said they happened regularly, and noted Jane Doe 1 said during her interview, “she specifically stated that she spent nearly every weekend,” at Cunningham’s.
“She described almost every time she went there, something happened to make her uncomfortable,” he said. “When she was 7, she was asleep and woke up to find Cunningham lying next to her and biting her ear.”
Peterson was also asked if Cunningham had displayed any “”grooming behavior.” Peterson testified Cunningham bought Jane Doe 1 large presents and treated her differently from the other children.
Peterson served a search warrant at Cunningham’s residence in March and took away 14 pieces of electronic equipment including hard drives from a desktop computer. They were turned over to a computer forensic investigator who reportedly found around 48,000 images of child porn and videos, including partially deleted videos.
Day two of the preliminary hearing will resume at 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning and it’s expected to last for the entire day, possibly extending into Friday. Cunningham has waived his right to a continuous hearing and if needed the hearing will resume on Monday.
Cunningham appeared in court wearing jail-issued clothing and seated at the defense table. He remains in jail with bail set at $2.5 million.