Lackawanna County jury to weigh child sex abuse case against Elmhurst Twp. man

·2 min read

Jun. 18—A jury in Scranton today will weigh whether an Elmhurst Twp. man is guilty of sexually abusing children.

Attorneys this morning gave their closing arguments to make the case that Francis Collin Vetter either "abused, manipulated and controlled" the two victims, according to Deputy District Attorney Sara Varela, or is an innocent man targeted by deceit, his attorney, Joseph D'Andrea argued.

Each attorney spoke for roughly an hour. By 11:30 a.m., Lackawanna County Judge Andy Jarbola prepared to charge the jury, who would then begin deliberations.

State police initially charged Vetter, 35, in January 2019 with more than 200 offenses, including child rape and statutory sexual assault for abusing a young girl at least once a month over a five-year period. The girl, now 15, was the first witness called Wednesday and testified the abuse began when she was 7 when Vetter had her watch pornography, which later escalated to sexual contact.

The Times-Tribune does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Police later charged Vetter with additional offenses because they said Vetter showed a 9-year-old pornography and told the child to have sex with a 10-year-old. Vetter is also accused of trying to obstruct the investigation.

In arguing for Vetter's innocence, D'Andrea drew attention to inconsistences in the stories the children told, saying they spun those tales for their own "survival" because they were manipulated by family who had a vendetta against Vetter.

"Lies and deception are the essence of reasonable doubt," D'Andrea said.

The children were manipulated, Varela said, but by Vetter.

The evidence for his guilt included a girl's diagnosis of chlamydia when she was 12-years-old in 2019. Vetter had the same sexually transmitted infection.

"The defense would have you believe chlamydia was running rampant" in the child's middle school classroom, Varela said.

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Contact the writer: jkohut@timesshamrock.com, 570-348-9100, x5187; @jkohutTT on Twitter.

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