LIMA — Two young girls gave tearful testimony in Allen County Common Pleas Court Tuesday of unwanted touches to their breasts, buttocks and “private areas” by a Lima firefighter.
The victims of what prosecutors termed inappropriate and sexually-charged touches for the alleged purpose of sexual gratification were witnesses in the opening day of a jury trial of Gilbert Frew.
Frew, 42, a resident of Spencerville when the alleged criminal acts took place, now lives in Buckland. He was indicted by an Allen County grand jury in August of last year on two counts of gross sexual imposition, felonies of the third degree. He has pleaded not guilty to both counts.
The oldest of the alleged victims, now 15, told jurors what started as back rubs administered by Frew grew to feel “uncomfortable” over the span of several years. Through tears from the witness stand, the girl said she did not tell her mother or anyone else about the touches because she was afraid. She later confirmed to her step-mother similar allegations first brought to light by her younger sister concerning the touching.
Under cross-examination by Frew’s attorney, William Kluge, the girl admitted lying to investigators from Allen County Children Services by downplaying the severity of those touches.
The younger of the two alleged victims, now 11, also fought back tears throughout her testimony. She told jurors that Frew once told her “that he liked my sexy little boobies.” Like her old sister, she said Frew made unwanted advances and once joked about the two taking a shower together.
The younger girl, who eventually told her step-mother about the unwanted touches, said she, too, did not tell anyone about what was happening to her for several years.
“I was questioning myself, and I didn’t think anyone would believe me,” she told jurors.
Travis Hackworth, a patrolman with the Spencerville Police Department, interviewed Frew after formal allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior had been filed with the department. During a taped interview, Frew said that he had rubbed the “backs and legs of the two girls,” but did he “never intentionally, inappropriately touched them.”
Frew said he agreed to talk to the police because he had “nothing to hide.”
The state rested its case on Tuesday. Testifying for the defense were Frew’s two teenage daughters, who said they received “frequent back rubs” from their father and never found them to have sexual overtones.
Frew, a 20-year military veteran who served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, will take the witness stand with the trial resumes Tuesday morning. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations by noon.
Frew was placed on leave from the Lima Fire Department effective Aug. 17, 2018. He was hired by the city as a firefighter in 2003.