A Chester man is in jail in Liberty County awaiting sentencing after a Hill County jury found him guilty of molesting two young girls in the 1990s and, on another occasion, exposing himself and masturbating in front of one of the girls and her sibling.
The jury deliberated just more than an hour at the end of the three-day trial before convicting Donald Wayne Pulst, born in 1952, of two felony counts of sexual assault and one of sexual intercourse without consent, also a felony, and a misdemeanor count of indecent exposure.
The jury was sent to deliberate at 12:19 p. m., and announced at 1:30 p. m. it had reached its verdicts.
District Judge Dan Boucher set sentencing for March 5 at 10 a. m. in Chester.
Pulst faces up to life imprisonment on the sexual intercourse without consent charge.
The trial was moved from Liberty County to Hill County — Boucher presides over cases in both counties as well as Chouteau County — to ensure having an unbiased jury pool.
Pulst was charged some 12 years after two girls initially reported he had molested them while taking them for drives in Chester and in the surrounding area, with one reporting he had molested her after taking her to visit her great-grandmother’s grave.
One of the victims also reported he had molested her while in her residence in another state. That allegation was not part of the charges brought up in the three-day trial in Hill County.
Montana Deputy Attorney General D. Ole Olson, acting as special deputy Liberty County attorney in the prosecution of the case, said during his closing arguments that regardless of why the case was not prosecuted 12 years ago, whatever that failure was, “that’s not the end of the story.
“The end of the story is today. Today the right thing is going to happen, ” he said. “Don Pulst is going to be held responsible for what he did to these girls because he, more than anyone else, has failed these girls. … He took advantage of a couple of very young girls who just thought it would be fun to go on rides (with him).
“He took advantage of that and turned it into something terrible, into something they will both have to live with the rest of their lives, ” Olson added. “He used that to steal their innocence. ”
Pulst’s attorney, Lindsay Lorang, said in her closing arguments that the state had not proven its case, and the jury was bound to find Pulst not guilty of all four charges. The only evidence was contradictory testimony, Lorang said, such as one witness reporting Pulst wearing a light or white robe and another reporting his wearing a dark blue robe; one witness reporting she was left alone in the house with Pulst while her mother testified that Pulst was gone and the mother stayed home with her daughter.
That is not a slight difference in detail, Lorang said.
“It’s an absolute change in the story, a complete turnaround, ” she said “That’s what these stories are. They’re inconsistent. ”
She said other parts of the state’s case failed to prove all of the required elements of the crimes, such as whether the accused acted in order to gratify or arouse sexual desires.
Witnesses testified that one of the victims reported a dozen years ago that Pulst had molested her while staying with her and her family at their residence in another state. She also reported at that time that he had molested her and her relative, a young girl from Chester, over several years when she would visit Chester with her family from about ages 4 or 5 to about 10.
Pulst would let the children sit on his lap and steer the vehicle while driving, and molested them while doing so, the victim said.
The victim’s mother testified that after the victim reported Pulst had molested her while they were reading bedtime stories — he left to return to Chester early the next morning — she called Pulst to confront him about the allegation, and Pulst told her he would turn himself in to law enforcement and seek counseling.
The other victim told a counselor that she had been molested, both while driving with Pulst and while at the cemetery.
A Liberty County deputy sheriff interviewed Pulst after a social worker interviewed that victim, and turned the transcript over to the sheriff’s office.
In the interview, Pulst said he would not say the girls were lying, but that he did not remember doing what they said. He denied the indecent exposure allegation.
Olson said that suggestions that medication may have caused action and forgetfulness by involuntary intoxication, or that Pulst could not remember doing anything, was not held up by Pulst’s own testimony. Pulst remembered some details, denying some accusations, even correcting the deputy, then suddenly did not remember, Olson said.
“That story is nonsense, that he doesn’t remember, ” Olson said, adding, “He can’t bring himself to call the girls liars … he also can’t bring himself to say, ‘I did it. ‘”
Olson said the fact that testimony has differences in details helps prove the case. If the stories were false, the witnesses would make sure their details matched, he said.
Olson said all of the people involved 12 years ago did what they should, until it got to the point of the case being prosecuted. The girls, their parents, the counselors, thought justice was being done, counseling was occurring, the case was being prosecuted. The victims then simply stayed away from Pulst, not giving him another chance to offend, Olson said.
That changed last year, when one victim saw Pulst come to her own house, with her own children living there.
Olson called on the jury to finally act on the case.
“Now it’s time for justice to be done, ” he said. “Now it’s time to end this story and give these girls what they deserve. ”