, Muskogee, OK

February 19, 2013

Ex-coach on trial for molestation

Lawyer: Burkholder did nothing wrong

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— WAGONER — A Haskell man arrested in 2011 after allegedly molesting a 10-year-old girl did nothing inappropriate, his lawyer told jurors Tuesday.

Opening statements were given in the trial for Gene Allen Burkholder, a 39-year-old softball coach who was arrested in 2011 after allegedly molesting one of his players during a slumber party.

District 27 Assistant District Attorney Joy Mohorovicic told jurors that Burkholder preyed on the girl after her friends had gone to sleep during the slumber party. Court documents filed in the Wagoner County Court Clerk’s Office states the girl told investigators the former coach stuck his hands down her pants and inserted his fingers in her while the two were on the couch.

Burkholder is alleged to have molested the girl at some point between March 9 and 11, 2011. He was arrested Aug. 1, 2011.

But Jones told jurors the girl’s story changed in the six months between Burkholder’s arrest and his preliminary hearing. Jones said that during the hearing, the girl testified there was no insertion — leading prosecutors to amend charges against Burkholder from first-degree rape to lewd molestation.

The girl, Jones said, presented a different version of what happened that night during the preliminary hearing. Her story also differed on who was at the house that night and when it happened.

Jones said Burkholder told parents of players on the team after the allegations surfaced. He was accused in March 2011, but charged and arrested five months later.

“No other parents took their children off the team,” Jones said.

Burkholder would attend games as a parent to watch his daughter play, and met with no resistance from other parents, Jones said.

Mohorovicic though, said the 10-year-old was frightened after the act occurred and had trouble sleeping. She didn’t tell anyone about what happened for almost a week because her mother was fresh out of the hospital and constantly being visited by friends. The girl, Mohorovicic said, had to wait until she could be alone with her mother’s friend before she felt comfortable enough to disclose what happened.

“She spent a couple days with a friend,” Mohorovicic said. “It was time to go to softball practice, and suddenly, this girl who was so excited about softball didn’t want to go.”

Not long after that, the girl told her mother’s friend her coach had molested her, she said.

Testimony will resume at 9 a.m. today in Wagoner County District Court.

zReach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth