South Kitsap child rape trial underway without defendant

Associated Press

PORT ORCHARD — A child rape trial is underway in Washington, but the defendant has not attended the opening statements or testimony after multiple courtroom outbursts.

Melford Warren Jr., 45, is charged with nine different crimes, including four counts of child rape and 12 counts of assault of a child, reported The Kitsap Sun.

Warren’s bizarre behavior has been chronicled by corrections officers, his defense attorney and his personal writings. It prompted requests for psychological evaluations, which found him competent to stand trial, meaning that he is aware of the charges against him and can participate in his own defense.

His courtroom outbursts have been found to jeopardize his ability to receive a fair trial.

Superior Court Judge Melissa Hemstreet ruled a mistrial after a recent incident and seated a new jury in the case. Warren hasn’t appeared in court since.

Warren lived in an unusual domestic situation in South Kitsap with two women with whom he fathered a dozen children. Prosecutors described the situation as an extremely abusive environment and a “living nightmare” for Warren’s family.

Prosecutors say Warren believes women are inferior to men, thinks having sex with one’s children is OK and has demanded his family call him “God.” He first came to the attention of law enforcement when his 14-month old daughter was taken to a Tacoma hospital with a broken arm in 2014.

The injury made doctors suspicious. When authorities visited Warren’s home, many of the children hid in the attic and Warren ran out of the back of the house, breaking his arm, according to court documents.

Court documents say Warren sexually assaulted at least three of the children, kept them from going to school, locked them in small rooms, deprived them of food and clothing, held their heads under water and had them beat each other and their mothers when house rules were broken.

Defense attorney Adrian Pimentel visits Warren in jail every day to ask if he will follow rules of decorum, but he has declined so far. Hemstreet laid out that process in court documents.

Pimentel said he doesn’t know if Warren will attend any of the court proceedings.

“That’s entirely up to Mr. Warren,” he said. “There is no way I can know.”

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