A man accused of raping a girl who visited him while he was staying in a homeless shelter in Havre went on trial today, with jury selection starting at 9 a. m.
Judge Dan Boucher set a jury pool of 70 from which to select 12 jurors and two alternates for the trial of Edward Harold Ghostbear.
Boucher warned the attorneys, Hill County Public Defender Dan Minnis and Broadwater County Attorney Karla Mae Bosse, who started prosecuting the case while still a deputy Hill County Attorney, that the case could run into the weekend.
Boucher said in a pretrial hearing Tuesday he set the trial for three days but the list of witnesses, if not carefully managed, could make the trial run longer. With another trial scheduled in Hill County District Court next week, that could require holding court Saturday, Boucher said.
Ghostbear was charged Jan. 19 after an investigation into charges made Jan. 8 that he had molested a girl who visited him in the Branded by Fire Ministry shelter in Havre, at the previous Salvation Army chapel location on 2nd Street and 6th Ave.
He was staying at the shelter because the court had issued a no contact order with his girlfriend — whom the court later noted was his only connection to the community — after he was charged Oct. 3, 2011, with a felony count of partner or family member assault. Ghostbear had three previous convictions on that offense.
Ghostbear began staying at Branded by Fire’s shelter because he could no longer stay with his girlfriend. He was allowed in the order to have contact with the alleged victim, who then visited him in the shelter because he could not come to her residence.
Ghostbear pleaded guilty to that assault charge in a plea agreement April 18, and Boucher sentenced him June 11 to five years with the Montana Department of Corrections with two years suspended.
The felony charge of sexual intercourse without consent, with an alternative of sexual assault, both felonies, alleged he had molested the girl, whose age was not listed, on or between Dec. 15 and Jan. 8. They later were amended to the dates Jan. 1, 2011, to Jan. 8, 2012.
Police responded to a call from a Branded by Fire shelter manager Jan. 8 reporting a woman was assaulting Ghostbear. The woman told officers her daughter had told her that morning that Ghostbear had sexually molested her.
The manager, Myron David, said in an interview with the Havre Daily News that he and his family had been with Ghostbear and the girl most of the time she was at the church Jan. 8, and saw nothing indicating anything had happened.
Pastor Mike Neubeaur, founder of Branded by Fire, said in an interview that no one in the church said they had been told by the girl that anything had been happening. He talked to everyone in whom the girl could have confided, he said.
According to the charging document, the girl told the officer that Ghostbear had had actual sex with her. The sex had occurred in the basement of the church when no one else was there, the girl said.
She said he sexually assaulted her every time she went to visit him.
She said she told Ghostbear to stop, but he did not, and that she was too afraid to shout or call for help.
The girl said she told people at the church what Ghostbear had done, but no one believed her.
The time frame later was expanded in the amended charges to potentially include times before the no contact order was issued.