A former day care worker was convicted Friday of abducting a 5-year-old girl from her school classroom and sexually assaulting her during a 19-hour ordeal.
Christina Regusters, 21, donned a Muslim dress and veil to impersonate the girl’s mother and take her from Bryant Elementary School in January 2013, then posed as three different people to trick the blindfolded child. The girl was found the next morning at a cold, dark playground.
The defense had questioned during the three-week trial whether Regusters could have acted alone. But prosecutors said she had viewed child pornography and Japanese anime involving child sexual torture and also looked up how to destroy DNA evidence.
Regusters, who is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 15, was convicted of all counts, including kidnapping, aggravated assault and indecent deviate sexual intercourse.
The child said she was blindfolded and stashed under a bed for most of her captivity. But she recalled hearing a talking bird, a key detail that helped lead police close in on a suspect.
The defense argued that three other people home that day would have heard the girl’s cries during the attack. Defense attorney W. Fred Harrison Jr. suggested an alternative theory: that his client helped an unnamed man commit the crime.
Regusters’ DNA – along with a trace of semen – was found on the T-shirt the girl was wearing when she was found half-naked on a dark, cold playground the next morning. However, other key evidence was never found, including the girl’s clothes, her backpack, the clothing the kidnapper wore in the school or the object believed to have been used in the attack.
Harrison said after the verdict that he believed the DNA evidence and Internet searches “proved to be her undoing,” according to WCAU-TV. He called the verdict fair but said he was disappointed and added that “there’s an appeal in the offing.”
The now-7-year-old girl suffered devastating injuries and needed a colostomy after the attack, but she has recovered physically and is now in second grade. She testified briefly during the trial.
Regusters had moved in with an aunt in Philadelphia after her father went to prison in Maryland for assaulting her and a sister. She had worked at a day-care program the girl attended after school, but had been suspended and was home the day of the abduction.
School officials did not realize the girl was missing for six hours, until dismissal time. The substitute kindergarten teacher testified that the woman posing at his door as the girl’s mother – in a long Muslim cloak and veil – had said she wanted to take her daughter out for breakfast, and said she signed the girl out at the front office. The victim’s family is suing the Philadelphia School District.