Judge declares mistrial in ex-counselor’s sexual abuse trial

Rebecca Q. Winters

Rebecca Q. Winters

DOVER — The case of a 31-year-old woman accused of sexual abuse of a minor while working as a drug and alcohol counselor in 2015 ended abruptly in mistrial Thursday afternoon during an investigating detective’s testimony.

Kent County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clark returned from a 15-minute recess to render his decision, which followed earlier sustained defense objections by attorney John Malik regarding statements from Dover Police Detective Anthony Toto on the witness stand.

Thus, Rebecca Q. Winters (also identified as Adams) was released on conditions of her bail and the judge advised both parties to contact the court for another trial date if applicable.

Judge Clark maintained the cumulative effect of statements made by the detective unfairly prejudiced the defendant before jurors (eight women, five men) and he declared the mistrial out of an abundance of caution.

Under questioning from Deputy Attorney General Kathy Dickerson, Detective Toto recounted an alleged phone conversation with the defendant that he testified ended with her asking for a lawyer. That testimony immediately triggered a defense objection.

Previously, the officer described the alleged victim’s demeanor and perceived state of mind during an interview on Aug. 17, 2015. That also drew objection from the defense.

Ms. Winters was charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of a child by a person of trust and two counts of providing alcohol to a minor after investigation into an alleged relationship with a boy attending now-defunct Crossroads of Delaware drug and alcohol counseling center in Milford.

As testimony began, the detective testified he had received an anonymous complaint from the Delaware Division of Family Services on Aug. 13, 2015, and began an investigation by contacting the alleged 16-year-old victim and his mother at their home.

The youth denied any improper relationship, as did Ms. Winters while under Miranda during a voluntary interview at the Dover Police Department on Aug. 14, 2015. A nearly 10-minute audio and visual recording of the interview was played before the jury on Thursday.

In the meeting with Detective Toto, Ms. Winters reported the youth had never approached her in a sexual manner and “that’s why I get along with him.”

While some at Crossroads believed the teen was a favorite of Ms. Winters, she said others felt the same way about him because “he’s respectful … he does what I say.”

The then-counselor said she had no sexual attraction to the teen.

As Ms. Winters departed the police station, according to the detective’s testimony, she was told to have no contact with the youth.

The detective testified he took possession of the minor’s phone during the Aug. 17 interview, and informed him of the Delaware State Police’s capability of recovering all text messages, even those deleted. He then described the juvenile’s demeanor as becoming more attentive than his earlier lack of eye contact and a lowered head when answering questions.

After returning to the police station, the officer claimed he had the minor’s phone on his desk when a text arrived from Ms. Winters with a question mark as the only message.

The detective testified he then called Ms. Winters from his work phone and asked if she had refrained from communication with the youth. She indicated she had not, according to the detective, and the officer informed her of the minor’s phone in his possession

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