Bauers have trial in child sex case, adamantly deny allegations
The bench trial of Theodosia husband and wife David Bauer, 55, and Tiffany Bauer, 33, was held before Associate Judge Elizabeth Bock Nov. 1-2 at the Ozark County Courthouse in Gainesville. After hearing two days of testimony, Bock took the trial under advisement, meaning she plans to review the case further and will announce her verdict at some point in the future.
Bock asked the defense and prosecution to send her a memo with “any lesser charges,” a list of any charges that are similar to the ones the Bauers are charged with but require different elements of proof. Bock emphasized that she had not made a determination in the case but wants all applicable charges in front of her before she renders a verdict. The defense and prosecution have until the end of November to submit any lesser charges. The verdict is expected to be handed down sometime after that.
The Theodosia couple is charged with statutory rape and statuary sodomy of a child younger than 12 in connection with allegations of alleged sexual abuse occurring multiple times between August 2014 and March 23, 2015, when the victim was 8 years old.
The Bauers have explicitly denied all allegations against them. At one point while David Bauer was testifying, Bock scolded him for using explicit language on the stand in reference to the prosecution’s questioning. When David’s attorney asked if he was upset, he responded that he was being falsely accused.
“The most pathetic thing you can be called is a pedophile, and I’ve been called a pedophile. And the lovely paper put it [the allegations against him] on the front page,” Bauer said. “I’m mad at the system.”
With little physical evidence, the case was referred to as a “she-said/they-said type of case” by both the prosecution and the defense during closing arguments in the trial. The Bauers are not currently in custody, and Bock said she would not require them to be held while she takes the case under advisement, as the pair have had no bond issues and appeared at every scheduled hearing.
How the case came to light
At the trial, Assistant Attorney General Darrell Moore and Assistant Attorney General Travis Lillie, the prosecution team for the case, called Taunya Thompson to the stand first. Thompson, a child abuse investigator with the Missouri Children’s Division, told the court that a hotline call had come through to the children’s division on April 17, 2015, alleging educational neglect for a young girl who had recently enrolled in a Branson-area elementary school. The hotline caller alleged that the girl had forgone public school or homeschooling while she lived with the Bauers in Theodosia from August 2014 to March 2015, before she moved to Branson to live with her father.
Thompson reportedly went to the school and spoke with the girl, who allegedly told the investigator that she went to Lutie School for the first week while living with the Bauers, but when school officials began “asking questions,” she was taken out of public school. When Thompson asked the girl if she had been homeschooled, the girl reportedly told the investigator that she read part of a book one day but did not have any further schooling for the remainder of the eight months she lived in Theodosia.
While testifying later, Tiffany Bauer, said she did provide schoolwork for the girl during the time she lived with them.
Thompson said she always ends her interviews by asking if the child has anything else they would like to say, and when she asked the question to the girl, she reportedly told the investigator that Tiffany Bauer allowed David Bauer to “play with me down there” and pointed toward her genitals. The girl reportedly said Tiffany would join in, and David had to ask Tiffany permission to have sex with the girl. She also reportedly told the investigator that Tiffany showed the girl how to put a condom on.
The investigator went to the middle school and spoke with the girl’s brother. Then she went to the girl’s Branson home and spoke with a woman who also lived in the home. The woman reportedly told the investigator that the girl had also recently confided in her that she had been touched inappropriately by David Bauer. The woman told the investigator that she asked the girl where Tiffany Bauer was at the time, and the girl answered, “Right there.”
After hearing the allegations, the children’s division investigator called the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), and an interview with the CAC was setup. Melinda Ingram, the director and forensic interviewer for the CAC in Branson West, testified at the trial about the interview she conducted with the girl. A video of the approximately 40-minute interview was played on a television in the courtroom. In the interview, the girl almost immediately discloses the allegations of abuse after entering the room. She continues to give details of several occasions, locations and sexual acts. The interviewer used anatomical drawings of humans to ask about the abuse, and the girl reportedly described two sex toys in detail and gives details about types of pornographic videos that she said were used during the abuse. The girl said the abuse happened about every week at first and then “Every day. Every day. Every day.”
The state then called Ozark County Chief Deputy Winston Collins to the stand. Collins told the court he went to the Bauer residence in the Dugginsville area on June 2, 2015, after speaking with Thompson about the alleged abuse. He said he informed them that they were being investigated and asked if he could search the home. Tiffany agreed and signed a search consent form. Collins asked if she had a sex toy. Tiffany reportedly said yes and showed the officer where the adult toy was kept. The toy was located in a nightstand in the couple’s bedroom that had been described and drawn by the young girl in the CAC interview, but it did not match the description in color or appearance. Collins also located a stack of pornographic DVDs, the top of which was “teen-focused” genre, but the DVDs did not include a cover photo that matched the content the girl had described. The officer said he did not watch the video and could not say if the video included any scenes that matched the girl’s description.
When the prosecution asked if Collins had looked for additional adult toys or videos in the closet or under the bed, he said he hadn’t, explaining that residential consent searches were generally less invasive than searches conducted under an official search warrant because the homeowner can deny access at any time.
David and Tiffany Bauer went to the Ozark County Sheriff’s Depart-ment to be interviewed immediately after the search. At the sheriff’s office, Collins said, they were notified of the alleged sexual abuse by David, and he denied all of the allegations. Tiffany reportedly asked to take a lie detector test, and Collins told her they use a stress voice test instead. The couple told the officer they would set up a time in Ava to take the test; however, the pair later ended up declining to take the test, which is inadmissible in court, due to the advice of their attorneys, the Bauers said. Collins indicated that the Bauers were completely and fully cooperative throughout the entire process.
Bauers complete denial
Defense attorneys Stephen Naioti and Reidar Hammond told the court they believe the allegations were made up by a woman close to the father of the girl and that the child was coached to report the story in an attempt to keep the Bauers from having contact with her.
While on the stand for the defense, Tiffany Bauer’s sister, Beth Von Elling, told the court that two weeks prior to the allegations being made, the woman in question told her, “I’ll see your [expletive] sister in jail before I give these kids back.”
Tiffany Bauer also took the stand. She said that in 2014, when the girl lived with the Bauers, the family of two adults and four children were living in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom single-wide trailer. She said the two bathrooms did not work, and the family used an outdoor outhouse. Later, one of the bathrooms was repaired and was working. Tiffany said the trailer was extremely small, and there was no way the other children wouldn’t have woken up or seen the alleged abuse if it had happened.
The defense asked Tiffany Bauer how she felt when she heard the allegations for the first time.
“I’m hurt…,” she said referring to the girl’s testimony. “It didn’t happen. I feel sorry for her, because I know she wouldn’t be saying these things unless she was told to. She [referring to the other woman] can’t have me in those kids’ life. I’m a threat to her.”
Rosalyn Schultz, a forensic psychologist who reviews interviews from children’s division, CAC and law enforcement for the defense in cases, also testified as to several elements of the CAC interview that she believed were problematic. Schultz, who told the court that she was paid $8,300 by the defense to review the interview and testify, said not enough open-ended questions were asked, some multiple-choice questions were asked, and the interviewer did not explore alternate hypotheses other than abuse during the interview, among other things.
Defense questions credibility of the alleged victim
During the trial, the defense called Shirlene Demnan to the stand. Demnan told the court that she was a children’s division services investigator for the 44th judicial circuit based in the Ava office. Demnan said that in November 2014, a hotline call was made to the children’s division stating that an alleged victim in the case had said that David Bauer was sexually abusing her. The call, which had come to the Stone County children’s division office, was referred to Demnan. She said she met the victim and Tiffany Bauer at a relative’s house. Demnan said that while questioning the victim, the girl told her she had made up the story and that David Bauer had not abused her. Demnan told the court she did not see a reason to continue the investigation, but she told Tiffany she wanted to put a safety plan in place in which David Bauer was not living in the home for several months, just in case. Tiffany said the family did follow the safety plan instructions, and David moved out for a while.
While testifying, Tiffany Bauer told the defense that the alleged victim had disclosed the sexual abuse allegations to her sometime before Demnan arrived. When the alleged victim was called to the stand during the trial, she told the court that the only reason she told Demnan the allegations were a lie was because her mom told her to before she talked with the children’s division worker. The defense argued that because Demnan separated the girl and Tiffany when she arrived, it seemed unlikely that Tiffany would have had a chance to coach the girl into lying.
Defense attorney Hammond also questioned the integrity of the alleged victim, telling the court that she had forged her parents’ signature on a paper for a Boys and Girls Club activity at one point and lied about several other things on multiple occasions. Hammond also said that inconsistencies were fluent throughout the girl’s story, and the girl would not look David or Tiffany in the eye when she was in the courtroom testifying. Hammond said the other woman in question coached the girl after having very apparent animosity against Tiffany.
“We submit that neither [the woman] or [the alleged victim] is a credible witness,” Hammond said.
Defense attorney Naioti said, “I didn’t find any common sense in [the alleged victim’s] story. I found [the alleged victim’s] story to be incredible.… If I’ve ever seen a child that was coached, I saw one today.”
He ended his closing argument by saying, “The only thing worse than a child sex abuser is sending someone to prison that didn’t do it.”
State’s closing argument
The prosecution closed its case by focusing on the repetitive details that were consistent in the girl’s story between 2015 and 2017.
“What more is [the alleged victim] supposed to do? She’s always maintained what has happened to her in painstaking details,” Lillie said.
When rebutting the defense’s closing arguments, Lillie said, “[The alleged victim] couldn’t look them in eye? I wonder why? Maybe because she was raped by them.”