8/8/2019 7:29:00 AM Moren trial off as defendant is still without legal representation
River News Staff
The September jury trial of a 22-year-old Rhinelander man charged with five felony counts related to an alleged physical and sexual assault of an elderly town of Pelican woman in June 2018 was called off Monday as the search for a public defender to handle his case has so far proven fruitless.
In a brief hearing Monday, Judge Patrick O'Melia announced that he has started filling in the seven days set aside for the trial with other docket items.
Moren was previously represented by public defender Mary Roth Burns. She filed a motion to withdraw from the case May 16 which was granted by O'Melia. Since then, the public defender's office has not been able to find another attorney to represent Moren.
"I understand this is a statewide problem," O'Melia said, referring to an ongoing public defender shortage.
On July 10, 2018, Moren was charged with first-degree reckless injury, first-degree sexual assault, strangulation and suffocation, aggravated battery, burglary of a building or dwelling, criminal damage to property, and misdemeanor bail jumping.
The alleged assault was reported June 10, 2018 but police did not make their investigation public until June 15 when a press release was issued asking for the public's help in identifying a suspect.
In a follow-up press release July 3, sheriff's captain Terri Hook announced DNA analysis had led to the identification of a suspect.
Oneida County district attorney Mike Schiek has repeatedly expressed concern about the possibility of postponing the trial, noting that the alleged victim is 76 years old and in declining health.
At Monday's hearing, O'Melia said he will attempt to appoint an attorney for Moren by the end of the week.
According to the complaint, the elderly woman's daughter told police she went to check on her mother during the afternoon of June 10 and found her bruised all over her body, including her face, arms and torso.
The daughter also observed a number of items in the residence were out of place and her mother's jewelry was laid out on her bed. The daughter also noticed blood on two items in the bedroom.
Investigators interviewed the alleged victim but she had difficulty communicating.
According to the complaint, the woman has not been diagnosed with dementia or a related degenerative disorder, but she told police she suspects that she does suffer from such a condition.
According to the complaint, the woman was able to communicate that she had been in bed the night before when a man wearing a white shirt and white shorts came into her home and assaulted her.
The man had "gotten on top of her" and "thrown her around," she said, adding that she ended up on the floor near the entrance to her room in a state of partial undress.
The woman said she was unsure what time the assault occurred and was unable to give investigators a clear description of the man, however she did submit to a medical examination that resulted in the subsequent DNA match.
According to the complaint, Moren was one of a number of people who were in the area of the woman's residence on the night in question who voluntarily gave police samples of their DNA.
In an interview with police after the lab results were received, Moren said he spent the evening of June 9 and early morning of June 10 drinking at various local establishments and "mudding" with friends, and admitted that he stayed with a friend in a residence near where the alleged victim lives, but denied entering her residence or assaulting her.
Moren remains in the Oneida County jail in lieu of $500,000 cash bail.
If convicted of all charges, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
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