ELLSWORTH, Maine — The chilling sound of a Steuben woman’s screams reverberated through the courtroom Wednesday as the sexual assault trial against her husband continued in Hancock County Superior Court.
The screams were from a recording of the woman being taken into protective custody by police on April 24, 2007, a little more than two weeks after she says her husband, Vladek Filler, raped her in their Gouldsboro home. The recording was presented Wednesday as evidence in the sexual assault retrial of Filler.
Washington County sheriff’s deputies took Filler’s wife into protective custody on April 24 after she called police from a friend’s house in Steuben and they went to check on her well-being.
Called as a prosecution witness, Lt. Travis Willey of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department testified that he found Filler’s wife on a rural road near a blueberry field, wearing no shoes, black pants and a bra, and carrying her youngest son, who then was about 18 months old, in a sweatshirt. Willey told the jury in Filler’s trial that he made the recording as he and other police took Filler’s wife into protective custody and took her to Down East Community Hospital in Machias for an evaluation.
When questioned on the stand by Hancock County First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh about her state of mind, Willey said Filler’s wife was not making a whole lot of sense. She appeared tired and, because she had white froth around her mouth, dehydrated as well, Willey said.
“She seemed very irrational at the moment,” the deputy said.
On the recording, Filler’s wife can be heard making accusations between her screams and other unintelligible comments. She threatens on the recording to kill her husband and says that he sexually assaulted her and her three children. The woman has two boys with Filler and she has a now-21-year-old daughter who was fathered by another man.
“She didn’t go into details, but she did say that [Filler molested the children],” Willey said under cross-examination by Filler’s attorney, Stephen C. Smith of Bangor.
Filler, 41, is on trial for assaulting and sexually assaulting his estranged wife, but has not been charged with any crimes against his two sons or his stepdaughter. Filler now lives in suburban Atlanta and has custody of their two sons, who are 5 and 14 years old.
Filler originally was tried on the allegations in early 2009 and found guilty. But the trial judge and then the state supreme court ordered a retrial after Filler argued that the case’s previous prosecutor, Assistant Hancock County District Attorney Mary Kellett, inappropriately raised during closing arguments an issue that had been barred from testimony.
During the trial on Wednesday, Filler’s wife was heard screaming on Lt. Willey’s recording, “I will kill him!” and “I’m not crazy! I‘m not crazy!”
The jury of eight women and seven men, including three alternates, listened to the recording for about half an hour at the end of Wednesday’s testimony. The trial is expected to resume around 9 a.m. Thursday.
Before Willey’s testimony, Steuben resident Linda Gleason testified that in the days leading up to Filler’s wife being taken into protective custody, Filler’s wife, stepdaughter and youngest son were staying with Gleason in Steuben. Gleason, a friend of Filler’s wife, said that they were staying with her after Filler and his wife had a fight about Filler’s wife using the car.
Gleason said Filler’s wife called police from her house on April 23, 2007 — the day before she was taken to Machias for a mental evaluation — to tell them about the alleged rape she said happened on April 6 that year. In the days leading up to the recording, Gleason testified, she did not see Filler’s wife eat or sleep.
Filler’s wife also testified earlier Wednesday while being cross-examined by Smith. The defense attorney questioned her about the alleged sexual assault on April 6, during which Filler supposedly sodomized her against the laundry washer and dryer machines in a bathroom.
Filler’s wife answered slowly and several times asked Smith to repeat his questions. Several times throughout the day, each attorney objected to questions asked by the other. They held many sidebar sessions with presiding Justice Robert Murray, out of earshot of the jury, to discuss their objections or concerns before questioning resumed.
Under cross-examination, Smith asked Filler’s wife how Filler held her down, which of his hands he used to do what, how her head was positioned during the alleged assault in relation to the machines and a laundry basket, and other questions about the incident.
During the line of questioning, Filler’s wife said she does not know why she did not later get a post-rape medical exam, which police had recommended that she do. She also acknowledged that when she spoke to police about an unrelated matter on April 11, she never told them she had been raped five days earlier.
Filler’s wife also said that in December 2005, around the same time Filler allegedly threw water from a cup into her face during an argument, she was thinking about leaving her husband. She said she had gathered some personal documents and photographs in a bag in case she decided to leave.
“I was afraid,” she testified.
Smith asked her if she was afraid that, if she left, her husband would get custody of the children.
“I was afraid,” she repeated.
The prosecution is expected to continue calling witnesses on Thursday. Smith has said that Filler and his eldest son are each expected to testify in the trial.
The trial is expected to conclude on either Thursday or Friday.