Fetherolf v. Warden, Chillicothe Corr. Inst., CASE NO. 2:19-cv-00168

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
Writing for the CourtChief Magistrate Judge Elizabeth P. Deavers
Docket NumberCASE NO. 2:19-cv-00168
Decision Date07 February 2020


CASE NO. 2:19-cv-00168


February 7, 2020

Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr.
Chief Magistrate Judge Elizabeth P. Deavers


Petitioner, a state prisoner, brings this Petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter is before the Court on the Petition and Merit Brief in Support, Respondent's Return of Writ, Petitioner's Reply and Notice of State Court Exhaustion, and the exhibits of the parties. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that this action be DISMISSED.

Petitioner's Motion to Amend and Stay (ECF No. 53) is DENIED.

Petitioner's Motion for Nonpublication of Documents and Motion for Evidentiary Hearing (ECF Nos. 59, 60) are DENIED.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Petitioner challenges his convictions after a jury trial in the Union County Court of Common Pleas on charges of rape and intimidation of a witness. The Ohio Third District Court of Appeals summarized the facts and procedural history of the case as follows:

{¶ 3} On January 23, 2015, a superseding indictment was filed against Fetherolf. The superseding indictment alleged 33 counts against Fetherolf, beginning with the same allegation of Rape previously indicted (Count 1) and the same allegation of Gross Sexual Imposition previously indicted (Count 2). The superseding indictment

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then also alleged fifteen counts of Rape in violation of R.C. 2907.02(A)(1)(b), all felonies of the first degree (Counts 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31), fifteen counts of Gross Sexual Imposition in violation of R.C. 2907.05(A)(4), all felonies of the third degree (Counts 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32), and one count of Intimidation of an Attorney, Victim or Witness in a Criminal Case in violation of R.C. 2921.04(B), a felony of the third degree (Count 33). The new Rape and Gross Sexual Imposition charges were related to similar allegations of digital penetration that Fetherolf allegedly perpetrated against A.C. when Fetherolf had physical custody of A.C. on weekends between March of 2011 and September of 2013. The Intimidation of a Witness charge alleged that Fetherolf threatened to spank A.C. if she told anyone about the alleged incidents, and that she would be in trouble if she told anyone. Fetherolf pled not guilty to the charges.

{¶ 4} On March 7-10, 2016, a jury trial was held. [FN]2 Testimony at trial indicated that A.C. was born in March of 2006 to mother Heather C., but it was not determined that Fetherolf was A.C.'s father until a DNA test was done when A.C. was approximately two and a half years old. After Fetherolf was determined to be A.C.'s father, Heather testified that she contacted Fetherolf and asked if he wanted to be involved in A.C.'s life. Fetherolf indicated that he did and Heather began providing Fetherolf with visitation. [FN]3 Heather testified that as time passed she started allowing overnight visits between A.C. and Fetherolf and that those overnight visits grew into every other weekend.

FN2: A visiting judge presided over the trial.

FN3: Heather testified that all visitation was established outside of court proceedings.

{¶ 5} Heather testified that on Friday September 20, 2013, she dropped A.C. off with Fetherolf for his weekend visitation with the intent being that Fetherolf or his grandmother would return A.C. on Sunday. Testimony indicated that Fetherolf was staying in his grandmother's trailer at the time and that he primarily exercised his visitation with A.C. at the trailer.

{¶ 6} Heather indicated that she was contacted by Fetherolf on Saturday September 21st and Fetherolf asked her to drop off extra clothes for A.C., which she did. Then, Heather testified that she received a text message from Fetherolf on Sunday September 22, 2013, stating that his grandmother would bring A.C. home on Monday morning instead of Sunday. On Monday morning, Heather testified that she received a message from Fetherolf wherein he stated that he woke up late and that he or his grandmother would bring A.C. home that night or take her directly to school on Tuesday, September 24, 2013. Heather testified that she was upset with the situation.

{¶ 7} Heather indicated that the next morning, Tuesday, she received a call from the school inquiring about A.C. because she was not at school. Heather then began

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trying to contact Fetherolf. Heather testified that when she could not get in contact with Fetherolf, she called the police. The police located Fetherolf that day and facilitated A.C.'s return to Heather.

{¶ 8} After A.C. was returned to her, Heather took A.C. home. Heather commented that A.C. was dirty and looked like she needed a bath. Heather indicated that it was around lunchtime and A.C. was hungry so Heather made her food. Heather testified that A.C. looked "down" but was responsive. Heather testified that she asked A.C. about her weekend and eventually asked if A.C. got in trouble at Fetherolf's. Heather testified that A.C. put her head down, which was unusual behavior for A.C.

{¶ 9} Heather testified that A.C. asked to take her lunch upstairs to her room. Heather indicated that it was fine and permitted A.C. to go upstairs. Heather testified that shortly thereafter, Heather's sister Kara went upstairs to talk to A.C. and a few minutes later Kara came down, "pale" with "a look of shock" and said that Heather needed to talk to A.C. (March 7, 2016, Tr. at 196).

{¶ 10} Heather testified that she then talked to her daughter and asked what was wrong repeatedly and Heather testified that A.C. initially told her that she did not want to say anything because she was afraid of being spanked or getting in trouble. Heather testified that she conveyed to A.C. that she was not going to get into trouble and that A.C. then told her that Fetherolf touched her "in her butterfly," and indicated her vagina. (Id. at 197). Heather testified that she asked A.C. what she meant and A.C. demonstrated with her hand.

She put her palm up. She took two fingers up and started going up and down like this on her palm and then she stuck one finger inside of her palm. And I asked her what she meant by that and she said that he had stuck a finger inside of her.

(Id.) Heather testified that A.C. also told her that Fetherolf threatened to spank A.C. if A.C. did not allow him to touch her "butterfly." (March 7, 2016, Tr. at 197). Heather testified that A.C. indicated that similar acts had been going on since A.C. was between four and five years old. Kara, who had already talked to A.C. at that point, testified that A.C. had told her essentially the same story, that Fetherolf touched her in her "no-no" parts, indicating her vaginal area. (March 8, 2016, Tr. at 16).

{¶ 11} Heather testified that after hearing A.C.'s story she was upset and she went downstairs to make some phone calls. Kara took A.C. to a nearby park for 20-30 minutes while Heather made the calls. Heather testified that she called her mother, Linda, who came to the house. Linda also spoke with A.C. and Linda testified that A.C. revealed to her that Fetherolf had "stuck his fingers up in [her]" and that it had been going on since A.C. was four or five years old. (Id. at 43). According to Linda, A.C. also said that she did not tell anyone because her father had threatened to spank her if she did. [FN]4

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FN4: Fetherolf's attorney objected to testimony related to A.C.'s disclosures to Heather, Kara, and Linda. The trial court overruled these objections stating that they were, inter alia, excited utterances. Fetherolf does not claim on appeal that it was error for the trial court to permit these particular statements.

{¶ 12} After Heather finished making phone calls to, inter alia, her pediatrician, A.C. was taken to a nearby hospital and referred to a separate hospital that could more adequately handle a sexual assault examination. A.C. was then taken to the emergency room at Nationwide Children's Hospital by Heather, Kara, and Kara's boyfriend.

{¶ 13} At the emergency room, A.C. met with a number of medical professionals including an emergency room physician and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner ("SANE"). A.C. also met with a social worker, Lauren Kato, who took A.C.'s initial history. A.C. informed the social worker and medical personnel that Fetherolf had been drinking and had "swirl[ed]" his fingers on her "bad spot." (March 8, 2016, Tr. at 109). Kato testified that A.C. indicated that Fetherolf threatened to spank A.C. if she did not cooperate. Kato testified that A.C.'s disclosure was consistent with what A.C. had told her mother based on Kato's interview with Heather.

{¶ 14} Shortly thereafter on the same date, A.C. was physically examined by Dr. Helen McManus, an emergency room physician. Dr. McManus testified that she used the initial history provided by Kato to direct her care. Dr. McManus testified that although she did not find any marks on A.C. the exam was consistent with an allegation of touching, which would often not leave any marks. [FN]5 Dr. McManus testified that following her examination she concluded that A.C. had been sexually abused.

FN5: Dr. McManus noted in her report that "[i]n more than 90% of cases of documented sexual abuse the exam is normal." (State's Ex. 5 p. 4).

{¶ 15} In addition to a physical examination of A.C. by Dr. McManus, a rape kit was performed on A.C. by Teresa Warnimont, a SANE. Warnimont collected evidence and submitted it to BCI for testing. All swabs of A.C. checking for semen and amylase were negative. However, DNA testing revealed that in the crotch portion of A.C.'s underwear a male's DNA was present, which was consistent with a sample of Fetherolf's DNA. [FN]6 The DNA analyst testified at trial that the DNA present in A.C.'s underwear was more than what she would usually find with simply

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