Crime

Teen tells of years of sexual abuse

BELLEFONTE — A 17-year-old girl testified for almost 90 minutes in Centre County Court on Wednesday about how a man forced her to perform sex acts and to have sex over a six-year period and threatened repeatedly to murder her family if she told anyone.

The teen, at first crying and clutching a small pink teddy bear, testified that Gary E. Prisk, 54, now of the Centre County Correctional Facility, began sexually assaulting her when she was in fifth grade and he began forcing her to have sex two years later.

Centre County District Judge Thomas Jordan bound for trial 314 criminal counts against Prisk following his preliminary hearing.

The girl said she finally could no longer stand the abuse and in January told her mother, who immediately called Ferguson Township police. Most of the alleged abuse happened in the township, court documents indicate.

“He was going to hurt my family,” the girl said.

The Centre Daily Times is withholding her name in keeping with its policy of not identifying alleged sexual assault victims.

The girl said as she began to protest, Prisk became more violent, at times holding her head and hands over hot oven burners and burning her stomach with a blowtorch.

When the girl resisted performing sexual acts, Prisk threatened to murder her family and “cut up” her grandparents, according to the complaint. Prisk also threatened to kill her cousin’s baby, the girl testified.

“These threats are so devastating, especially for a child so young, that that is the reaction you would expect,” said Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira, regarding the girl staying silent for so long.

She told the court about what she called “the real bad time” when Prisk used a blowtorch to burn her stomach after putting a sheet over her head — after a plastic bag nearly asphyxiated her — and using duct tape to secure it.

“He said it was his tongue and he said he was going to burn me with this tongue,” the girl said, referring to the blowtorch. “He told me to tell everyone I got burned by a laminating machine. But it was a circle.”

Prisk, who has a criminal history that includes convictions for burglary and cocaine delivery in 1996 and 2006, respectively, preyed on the girl whenever he could get her alone, she testified.

She testified that many of the assaults in recent years happened when Prisk, serving a sentence in Centre County Correctional Facility, was let out on work release.

The girl’s mother, who fought tears throughout the hearing, had to leave the courtroom once as her daughter detailed physical punishment she said Prisk inflicted.

Prisk’s attorney, Centre County Assistant Public Defender Casey McClain, did not offer an argument in court Wednesday, saying the credibility of the witness is an issue at trial, but not at the preliminary hearing level.

Of 315 charges facing Prisk, one was dismissed Wednesday for lack of evidence.

That was a count of simple assault resulting from the teen telling police she had trouble at school due to severe itching and rash on her lower body.

She said she found what she believed to be insulation in her underwear and clothes and thought Prisk must have done it, she testified.

After that, “if I wanted to wear something I would hide it in a bag under my bed,” she said.

Because she had no direct knowledge Prisk was behind it, that lone charge was dismissed.

In 1995, Prisk was acquitted in separate cases of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, according to Centre County Court records.

Pete Bosak can be reached at 235-3928.

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