KINGMAN – It took more than five hours to select the jury while attorneys spent only 20 minutes to present opening statements in the trial of a Lake Havasu City man who allegedly fathered the child of his adopted teenage stepsister, 45 years his junior. Trial for Terry Fichtelman, 65, began Monday in Mohave County Superior Court in Kingman.
7-men and 7-women were seated, though two jurors will be excused as alternates before a dozen panel members decide Fichtelman’s fate sometime Wednesday or Thursday. Extra panel members are selected so they are available should any jurors need to be excused before trial deliberations begin.
Deputy County Attorney James Schoppmann told jurors it’s a simple case. He said they only need to determine if Fichtelman had sex with his 14-year-old adopted stepsister when he was 59 in 2017.
“You cannot impregnate a 14-year-old child,” Schoppman told jurors, stating they will find Fichtelman guilty of sexual conduct with a minor. “He had sex with his sister and we know that because of DNA and other evidence.”
Schoppmann said the victim bore Fichtelman’s child in 2018. He called Lake Havasu City M.D. Megan Weiss, an obstetrician-gynecologist as his first witness late Monday afternoon.
Defense attorney Greg McPhillips told the jury they will find his client innocent because of the inability of the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. McPhillips conceded that Schoppmann will present evidence that Fichtelman “made a big mistake” when he had sexual relations with another underage girl in California decades ago.
Schoppmann amplified that matter, informing jurors that Fichtelman was convicted in the California case, though he did not mention the resulting prison sentence. Schoppmann said the victim from the case 33 years ago will testify in the current Fichtelman trial as evidence of the defendant’s propensity to engage in sexual relations with minors.
McPhillips implored jurors not to convict Fichtelman in the current case just because of the outcome of the other. He said authorities used information from the California case to quickly judge Fichtelman, but he encouraged jurors not to rush to judgment.
“You must resist the urge to just get to the end and reach a conclusion. Guessing ain’t good enough,” McPhillips said. “Resist the urge to jump to conclusions about what the DNA might say.”
McPhillips said the victim does not wish to help the state convict Fichtelman. Schopmann asked jurors to not be distracted if the victim does not cooperate when she testifies, or claims inability to remember if, when and how their child was conceived.