LIHUE — Tarey Low says he never inappropriately touched the woman accusing him of sexual assault.
When his attorney, Thomas Otake, asked him if he’s ever had sex with the girl, Low said, “Absolutely not.”
Low, who is facing multiple counts of sexual assault in the first degree and sexual assault in the third degree, took the stand Thursday after a day of witness testimony from the state and defense.
It marked the fourth day of Low’s trial. It started with a cross-examination of the alleged victim and included eight witnesses from the state, and two from the defense.
At the end of the day, both parties rested their cases.
Low, 56, of Kapaa, is a former Kauai Police Department officer and state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officer. He is said to have allegedly sexually assaulted a female minor from June 29, 2007, through Feb. 14, 2014, according to a 13-page indictment.
He started as a DLNR DOCARE officer on April 2, 1990. Low became the Kauai district DLNR DOCARE manager in November 2001 and retired on June 1, 2009.
He retired to help his daughter run a tow company and he was responsible for responding to calls.
He was originally facing 28 counts of sexual assault, but was acquitted of four of the first-degree sexual assault charges Thursday after Otake argued the state didn’t prove a specific incident for the individual count.
Low, born and raised on Kauai, was for the most part stoic while being questioned. But there were times he was upset when asked about the allegations.
When the accuser called Low in 2014 to confront him about the alleged assaults, which she said started when she was 14, he said he was surprised.
“I was shocked and in disbelief,” he said.
He said he never forced her to sign out of school early or to go with him on tow jobs.
“She wanted to come, so I took her,” he said.
It was a fact Otake emphasized during his cross-examination of the victim.
“You asked to go out on these jobs with him,” he said. “Sometimes, these jobs happened at night and you were alone with him, after you say you’ve already been violently raped. You’ve said multiple times how scared you were, but you chose to go with him.”
Low said he always asked her mother’s permission to take her places.
He and his accuser met when she started going to his ranch on Kealia Road to learn about horses. Low owns and operates a 140-acre ranch that opened 17 years ago.
“I wanted to make sure we nurture the paniolo spirit,” he said. “I wanted to give the youth an opportunity to live the cowboy life.”
After meeting Low, the girl introduced him to a family member. It was about six months later the abuse started, and he threatened to kill her if she said anything, she said.
The abuse occurred at home and at the ranch, she said.
Police got involved after she told a relative at a wedding in April 2014.
“At first, she didn’t want to say anything,” the aunt said Thursday. “She was scared and upset. Then she broke down. She could barely speak.”
The next day, the aunt called the YWCA hot-line and took her to the Kauai Police Department headquarters.
“I had never been in that situation before. I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
During the proceedings, the state called several people, including a clinical psychologist who specializes in child sexual abuse, the detectives who investigated the case, a criminalist with KPD, and a friend.
Sandy Wakumoto and James Kurasaki responded to the complaint when the aunt made a report, which happened to be on Easter Sunday.
Shortly after, they interviewed Low, who came in willingly, and obtained a search warrant for his home in Kapaa and his ranch.
“We split into two teams to execute the warrant at the same day,” Wakumoto said Thursday.
When Wakumoto went to the ranch, he found a hunting license and ammunition.
At the same time, Kurasaki went to the home at Kula Road.
Kurasaki, now retired, interviewed the woman, by way of a forensic interview.
“The goal is to not put young victims under stress, make them feel comfortable, not ask leading questions and get her to tell truthfully her story,” he said.
Sections of the mattresses at the Kula Road home and the ranch were sent to the Honolulu Police Department to test for body fluid and DNA, but the tests came back inconclusive, said Stephanie Regan, a KPD criminalist.
On Thursday, Otake maintained that the house was small, and someone would have heard any one of the acts occurring. He also said because the ranch was a working ranch, there are people there everyday.
The trial continues today.