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St. Paul’s student said he halted sexual encounter, officer says

Labrie expected to testify today

Owen Labrie listened to testimony Tuesday in a Concord, N.H., courtroom.
Owen Labrie listened to testimony Tuesday in a Concord, N.H., courtroom.Jim Cole/Associated Press/Pool

CONCORD, N.H. — A police detective said Tuesday that a former St. Paul’s School student accused of raping a 15-year-old girl denied having sex with her, claiming in a lengthy interview with investigators that he abruptly cut short the physical encounter after a moment of “divine inspiration.”

A forensic specialist, meanwhile, testified that DNA evidence found on the girl’s underwear matched the profile of the defendant, Owen Labrie.

The evidence was presented on the fifth day of the high-profile trial of Labrie, 19. He is accused of raping the girl in May 2014 in a secluded campus room.

Detective Julie Curtin of the Concord Police Department testified Tuesday that Labrie told investigators during questioning that he would not have sex with a girl so young and that doing so “would have wrecked her.”

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“He said he never penetrated her,” Curtin said before a packed Concord courtroom, not far from the St. Paul’s campus. “When he made the decision to stop, he did,” Curtin said Labrie told authorities.

In tearful testimony last week, the girl, now 16, asserted that Labrie had sex with her against her will, pushing her underwear to the side after she resisted his efforts to take them off.

Labrie, 19, who is charged with aggravated sexual assault, has denied having intercourse with her, and told police in the days after the encounter that “her underwear never came off.”

“Telling you I would be inside her would be the end of my life,” he told police, Curtin said. The legal age of consent in New Hampshire is 16.

Forensic specialists testified Tuesday that the girl’s underpants tested positive for semen, but that it could not be determined that it was Labrie’s. His DNA, however, was found on the clothing, they said.

Prosecutors later rested their case, which relied on the girl’s emotional testimony and the portrayal of Labrie as a polished senior eager to hook up with younger girls in the weeks before he graduated.

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In a case that may well hinge on whose account the jury finds more credible, Labrie is expected to take the stand Wednesday.

Labrie, who had arranged to meet the ninth-grader through a campus tradition called “senior salute,” told police the encounter was playful, and that they both took their pants off as it intensified.

He put on a condom, telling investigators he thought it would make the encounter “more of a tease,” Curtin said.

But when he put it on, he had a “sobering moment” that made him realize that going forward would be a mistake, Curtin said Labrie told investigators. He abruptly exited the secluded room where he and the girl had been together, leaving her alone, Labrie told police.

The dramatic testimony, which the girl followed from the front row with her parents, countered the assertions of four of Labrie’s friends, who said Monday that Labrie told them he had sex with the girl.

Curtin described Labrie as badly shaken when he first learned he was under investigation, and said he quickly sought to use his personal background to deflect the accusations.

“Do you know anything about me?” he asked Curtin in a June 11 phone call, she testified. Labrie told Curtin he had a “life-changing” religious experience at St. Paul’s and planned to attend divinity school, she said.

The thought of Curtin’s phone call “made me want to cry,” Labrie told her, and the thought of her leaving her business card at his Vermont home — after Curtin visited but found no one home — “made him tremble.”

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Curtin said Labrie described the 15-year-old as “a nice girl,” and said he wanted to “show her a cool view” of the campus from the top of an academic building. He said he never meant to have sex with her, and at one point told investigators, “I should have stopped before.”

Labrie told police he did not know why the girl would have lied about the encounter, but said some younger girls consider it an honor to lose their virginity to an older student.

When questioned by police, Curtin said, Labrie described a playful, consensual encounter on a blanket in a dark mechanical room. They talked for a while, began to kiss, and things “speeded up from there.”

Labrie said at one point he tried to slide off her bra strap, but that she moved it back. Later, they both removed their pants, with the girl lifting her hips up so he could help pull hers off.

“It was all a tease,” Curtin said, recalling Labrie’s characterization.

Labrie said he kissed her inner thighs but did not perform oral sex. He told police he did not ejaculate.

Labrie and his mother initially met Curtin at a coffee shop in Concord, but Labrie eventually consented to be interviewed at the police station alone.

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In an almost four-hour interview, police said, Labrie “often sidetracked the conversation” and mentioned his accomplishments at school, Curtin said. He later e-mailed Curtin Facebook conversations between him and the girl, along with the essay he wrote for his college applications.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr., Curtin acknowledged that she drove to Labrie’s Vermont home to interview him in the hopes he might speak to her “off-the-cuff.”

“By going right away to see him, you were better able to catch him,” Carney said. “That was the most important thing.”

Carney noted that Labrie consistently maintained that he never penetrated the girl in any way. “He kept reiterating this to you no matter how many times you asked him, isn’t that right?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied.


Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.