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Jurors begin deliberations in child sex assault case

Durango man could spend life in prison if found guilty

A 12-person jury began deliberating Wednesday in the trial for a Durango man suspected of sexually assaulting a child.

Defense lawyers said the case against Brandon Durrschmidt was about nothing more than “talk” and “accusations,” saying prosecutors lacked physical evidence, forensic evidence and corroborative evidence.

“The investigation in this case was a joke,” said Kellan Schmelz, a public defender.

Prosecutors said jurors had all the evidence they needed: a traumatized child on video telling investigators exactly what happened and doing it again this week on the witness stand.

It is unreasonable to expect prosecutors to produce eyewitness accounts or video surveillance of the crimes occurring, said Assistant District Attorney Sean Murray.

“This is the kind of conduct you hide from the world. That’s exactly what Mr. Durrschmidt did,” Murray told jurors during closing arguments.

Durrschmidt, 40, faces eight to 24 years in prison if found guilty, and he could spend additional time in prison if a parole board finds him unfit to be released.

The alleged sexual assaults occurred from April 6, 2016, through Jan. 28, 2019, in the Animas Valley north of Durango, according to court testimony and court records.

The alleged victim was under the age of 10 at the time and is the child of another family who was close friends with Durrschmidt.

The child would spend the night at Durrschmidt’s house, and on multiple occasions he inappropriately touched the child, according to prosecutors.

The child did not yet have the understanding to know how to tell Durrschmidt to stop or how to make him stop, prosecutors said, and the child did not have the verbal skills to tell an adult.

Eventually, there was a falling-out between the two families, and that is when the child found an opening to tell an adult what happened, prosecutors said. The child maintained a consistent story in interviews with law enforcement and forensic investigators, prosecutors said.

A La Plata County Sheriff’s Office investigator said Durrschmidt appeared “very nervous, breathing quickly and consistently rubbing his hands together,” when questioned about his relationship with the child.

“He agreed to take a polygraph exam and we shook hands; his hand was cold and sweaty,” investigator Jim Hindricks wrote in an arrest affidavit. “Durrschmidt later canceled the scheduled polygraph exam.”

Defense lawyers said the child was used as a pawn in a bitter fight between the two families. They said the child’s mother introduced the idea that a sexual assault had occurred, and then it escalated from there.

They said a forensic investigator “suggestively interviewed” the child to produce answers in support of the allegations. They pointed to inconsistencies in the child’s statements.

Schmelz said no one denies the accusation is “heinous and horrifying,” but equally “heinous and horrifying” would be finding an innocent man guilty of a crime he didn’t commit.

Schmelz asked jurors to consider how Durrschmidt can possibly prove his innocence. Fortunately, he said, the law has an answer for that: defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

He said prosecutors failed to meet that burden and asked jurors to deliver a “not guilty” verdict.

Jurors began deliberating shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday in 6th Judicial District Court. They are expected to resume Thursday morning.

The case is being overseen by District Judge Suzanne Carlson.