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Trial begins for Durango man suspected of child sex assault

Alleged pattern of abuse occurred for nearly three years

Opening statements were made this week in a jury trial for a Durango man suspected of sexual assault on a child.

Brandon Durrschmidt, 40, is accused of a pattern of sexual abuse from April 6, 2016, through Jan. 28, 2019, in the Animas Valley north of Durango.

The alleged victim was under the age of 10 at the time and was the child of family friends, according to court documents and opening statements made Monday in 6th Judicial District Court.

Prosecutors said Durrschmidt inappropriately touched the child on multiple occasions. He allegedly warned the child not to tell anyone about the incidents or it could result in the child losing family members and lead to a falling-out between the two families.

However, there eventually was a falling-out between the two families, and that gave the child an opportunity to feel safe to tell an adult about what happened, Deputy District Attorney Justin Howard Pierce said during his opening statements.

The child, at age 9, told authorities that Durrschmidt committed sexual assault “too many times to count,” according to an arrest affidavit.

The child was referred to social workers and maintained a consistent story during extensive questioning, Pierce said.

Prosecutors plan to call investigators, expert witnesses in child sexual assault, the child’s mother and the child to testify during the weeklong trial.

Public defense lawyer Justin Bogan told jurors the case began with an accusation and will end with an accusation. He reminded jurors they need more than accusations to convict Durrschmidt of a crime.

He said prosecutors lack physical evidence, trace evidence and corroborating evidence. They also lack a confession from Durrschmidt, he said.

Bogan said the child’s behavior during the years of the alleged assaults do not resemble those of a victim. In fact, the child wanted to spend nights at Durrschmidt’s house, he said.

It is only after a falling out between the families that the child began accusing Durrschmidt of sexual assault, Bogan said.

He said adults put the idea of sexual assault in the child’s head. In one instance, that occurred after the child and an adult watched an episode of “Law and Order,” and the adult asked if anyone had ever touched the child’s private parts. In another instance, a forensic investigator “suggestively interviewed” the child, Bogan said.

The case is being overseen by District Judge Suzanne Carlson. Ten men and four women are serving on the jury, including two alternates.

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