Nathan A. Chavez of Sequim, right, sits with attorney Stanley Myers during Wednesday’s opening arguments in Clallam County Superior Court. Chavez is facing five counts of third-degree child rape and single counts of third-degree child molestation, as well as witness tampering. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Nathan A. Chavez of Sequim, right, sits with attorney Stanley Myers during Wednesday’s opening arguments in Clallam County Superior Court. Chavez is facing five counts of third-degree child rape and single counts of third-degree child molestation, as well as witness tampering. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Girls testify at rape trial in Clallam County

PORT ANGELES — A 17-year-old girl broke into tears in Clallam County Superior Court as she testified to having sex with Nathan Chavez, 31, about three years prior.

After a brief break from testifying on Wednesday, the girl, 14 at the time of the alleged rape, said it was when they had sex in Chavez’s home — the third time they had had sex, she said — that it became clear that what was happening was wrong.

“Just looking around the room and seeing all his stuff, his wife’s stuff and his kids’ stuff, that’s when it shifted my head as to what I was thinking and what I was doing,” she told the seven-man and seven-woman jury, sobbing.

“I was just this young girl with this older man who was married and had kids and why was I letting this happen?”

Chavez is charged with five counts of third-degree rape of a child, one count of third-degree child molestation and tampering with a witness. He is standing trial for allegedly having sex with two children, ages 14 and 15, between 2014 to 2016.

He was originally charged with raping four girls, but charges were amended for the fifth time on Tuesday, prior to the trial. He posted $250,000 bond July 3 and was ordered not to have contact with the alleged victims.

The girl who testified Wednesday was the first witness to take the stand after opening statements.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Roberson’s first words during opening statements were “opportunity, manipulation and secrets.”

“Over the course of the next two weeks you will hear a story of one man’s creating and taking advantage of opportunity and how he exploited those opportunities to have sexual relations with two children,” Roberson told the jury.

He told the jury they would hear about children having sex with Chavez in his vehicle, underage drinking and sneaking around behind parents’ backs.

He told the jury he would be “up front” with the fact that there is no DNA evidence in the case against Chavez, but that jurors would hear from witnesses who can corroborate certain events.

Chavez’s attorney, Stan Myers, did not offer opening statements. He said Thursday it is likely Chavez will testify in his own defense next week.

As Myers cross-examined a second alleged victim Thursday, she said she had no pictures or text messages that proved she had any relationship with Chavez.

She had met him at a party in the woods, she said. When it came time to leave, the vehicle she went to the party with had filled up, so she rode with Chavez, she said.

As they were driving back to town, she said they lost track of the vehicle they were following and pulled over. That’s when they had sex for the first time, she said.

Myers reminded her that she had said before she wished she could take it all back and not have told police about Chavez.

During re-direct, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin asked the girl why she said that.

“I never would want to testify about this,” the girl said.

“It’s been difficult, hasn’t it,” Devlin responded, before asking the court to let her go.

Both girls testified that they were nervous when they were alone with Chavez and that after they had sex they didn’t tell anyone.

They didn’t want Chavez to get in trouble, they both said.

The first girl who testified didn’t tell her mother, the police, or the pastor at the church where she first met Chavez.

The girl, who was in eighth grade at the time, said she liked Chavez and didn’t want to see him get in trouble.

“I just knew it was wrong what we were doing and I was embarrassed,” the first girl told the jury. “I didn’t want people to know I was in a sexual relationship with Nathan.”

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].