The former Luther band teacher accused of rape and other lewd acts with a former sixth-grade student was bound over for trial in Oklahoma County District Court on Wednesday. In addition, based on testimony, Judge Lisa Hammond added four more counts to the list of charges against Kyle Whitmus who was arrested in February 2016.
The state called the child as its only witness during the preliminary hearing.
Whitmus, 33, hand-cuffed and wearing an orange jail uniform, kept his head down, occasionally wrote notes to his attorney Sam Talley, looked at the Bible he carried and remained expressionless during the proceeding.
On the stand, the now 13-year-old girl answered questions meticulously asked by Assistant District Attorney SuAnne Carlson that outlined the alleged incidents during the 2014-2015 school year. The witness said her relationship began with the former teacher when she obtained his cell phone number from a friend and began texting him. Over time the texts became more graphic, “small jokes that were borderline okay … and kinda like dirty jokes, I guess,” she said.
She told the court that the relationship escalated from text messaging to touching which she said occurred two to three times a week over a span of two to three weeks.
“After class, kids would leave and I would stay a little bit longer and we would touch,” said the witness.
“Who would touch what?” asked Carlson.
“Sorry It’s hard to say … I would touch him in his private areas and he would do that to me too.”
“Did Mr. Whitmus kiss you?
“One of our exchanges was really fast and then I’d run out the door. ”
“Did the relationship go beyond touching?
“I don’t know how to say it … we had sex.”
At one point, Judge Hammond encouraged the witness as she struggled with answering the more graphic details of the prosecutor’s questions. “We are used to hearing those words here,” said the judge. In the courtroom were attorneys and defendants from other cases, and the girl’s counselor. There were no family members present for either the defendant or the girl.
The witness said the sexual intercourse happened just one time. Through questioning, Carlson and the witness brought out an alleged plan; the defendant and the band student arranged via text for her to stay after class one day and hide in the bathroom, telling the other students that a parent was picking her up there. She said Whitmus then knocked on the bathroom door to signal it was “safe” to come out and she said the sexual intercourse then happened in a room adjacent to the band room where sheet music and filing cabinets were kept.
Carlson asked whether the defendant indicated to her that the relationship should be kept secret. The girl said yes and that they knew “this entire situation could happen” referring to the criminal case now against him. Carlson asked whether he knew he could to go jail, and the girl answered, “yes.”
Carlson asked if it was her idea to tell (authorities) about the relationship and she said, “no.”
Carlson asked, “you still don’t want Mr. Whitmus to get in trouble do you?”
After a long pause, the witness said, “I really don’t.”
The witness said the relationship discontinued because it was too risky, and during the next semester she left Luther and went into long-term inpatient intensive counseling “to get away from accusations and my habits of self-harm.”
Whitmus’ attorney, Talley, asked the witness questions about phone numbers, times and dates, but the witness had trouble with the details and she said, “I don’t remember anything from Luther, honestly.” And later she said, “I’m just really confused.”
At one point, the witness broke down in sobs and Talley asked for a recess which was granted. The witness was allowed to go into the judge’s chambers along with Carlson, the counselor and Talley.
The proceeding ended a few minutes later. Talley was denied a request to reduce the charges of three counts of “lewd and indecent acts with a minor” into one count. Instead, Judge Hammond added four additional counts and said enough evidence exists to go to trial. The charges now number nine which are one count of rape in the first degree, seven counts of lewd and indecent acts with a minor and one count of soliciting sexual contact with a minor (through technology).
Another court date is set for July 27, 2016. In the meantime, Talley said he was preparing another bond reduction hearing for Whitmus who has been in jail since his arrest. He was dismissed from Luther schools in May 2015. Bond is set at $200,000. An earlier bond reduction hearing was denied.
Whitmus pleads not guilty to the charges.