|JW abusers in the News
|JW background blamed for abuse
|denver & the west
Teen says attacker sought to win trust
The boy testifies that a man posing as a youth used their friendship to sexually assault him repeatedly.
By Kieran Nicholson
Denver Post Staff Writer
Arapahoe County - A teenage boy told jurors Tuesday that he was sexually assaulted by a man who pretended to be a teenager and his friend.
The 15-year-old told the court that Zuri McGhee, 32, pretended to be 16 and used their friendship as leverage in multiple assaults.
McGhee said, "It might feel a little weird, but just trust me," the teen testified.
Prosecutors said the 15-year- old is among 20 victims between the ages of 8 and 15 who were assaulted between 2000 and 2005 in Aurora.
McGhee faces 77 criminal counts, mostly felonies, including multiple counts of sexual assault on a child and unlawful sexual contact.
Prosecutors say McGhee told boys and their parents that he was 13 or 16.
The boys, their parents and other family members thought McGhee was a muscular, polite young man who lived at an apartment with an uncle who was never around.
"Dozens and dozens of people believed he was a child," said Deputy District Attorney Christine Schober during opening statements.
Parents saw McGhee as a lonely, neglected boy and viewed him with sympathy. Parents so trusted McGhee that they invited him to sleepovers at their homes, Schober said. One family had McGhee move in with them.
Not all the alleged victims knew each other, although many were from the same Aurora neighborhood and many also attended the same elementary school in Aurora.
McGhee met two alleged victims while they were selling lemonade at a street-corner stand.
Ted Stavish, McGhee's defense attorney, told the jury McGhee did lie about his age.
McGhee was raised a Jehovah's Witness and didn't get to celebrate birthdays because of religious beliefs, Stavish said. Lying about his age was an attempt to recapture his lost youth.
Stavish described McGhee as a "lost soul."
McGhee denies all of the sexual-assault allegations, Stavish said, and he pursued relationships with the boys because he enjoyed being a "big brother and mentor."
The 15-year-old witness, however, told the court McGhee assaulted him and exploited his trust.
The boy, who was 13 at the time, said McGhee told him he could develop muscle through massages. A massage led to a sexual assault, the teen said.
The next night, McGhee wanted to massage him again.
"I said 'no.' I felt uncomfortable," the teen testified. "He said, 'Trust me."'
Staff writer Kieran Nicholson can be reached at 303-820-1822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.