Local News

Mother Claims She Was Raped By Hunichen In Child Abuse Trial

Posted January 12, 2000

— There are new accusations against a street minister on trial for abusing and severely injuring a 7-month-old boy. The baby's mother, Lisa Fortner, testified in court Thursday that her child was not the the only one abused by Howard Hunichen.

Fortner broke down on the stand when prosecutors showed her a picture of her son, Zachary. The photo shows him at three months old, looking plump and healthy. Zachary's appearance was much changed in home videotapes shown in court; in them, he appeared thin and in pain.

Fortner testified that Hunichen abused Zachary, her husband Kevin, and her. She told the court that Hunichen raped her repeatedly.

"I kinda fell backwards on the couch, and I was trying to pull away from him," Fortner said. "He got up on top of me and I was telling him, 'No, I can't do that.'"

On cross-examination, Hunichen's attorney, Karl Knudsen, continuously asked Fortner why she and her family stayed with such an abusive man and why she did not go to police.

"That would have been a really, really good time to have told the police detective all of this stuff that you have told this jury if that was the truth, wouldn't it?" Knudsen said.

Fortner replied, "Well, I should have told them but I didn't. I was scared about God's judgment on this and everything else."

Fortner also said Hunichen talked about killing her husband and collecting the insurance money, although she did not know whether he was serious.

Hunichen's former followers took the stand and said they witnessed him verbally abusing Lisa and Kevin Fortner. They said right after Zachary was injured, Hunichen said he would flee to Mexico if anything happened to Zachary. Hunichen did leave the area and was arrested in Florida.

Thurday's testimony was hard for some jurors to listen to. At one point when jurors left for a break, most were in tears.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case on Friday. That is when the defense is expected to begin their case.


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