DECATUR — A 17-year-old woman testified that she was walking in the middle of the street on 17th Street en route to a late-night meeting with her boyfriend when she stopped to send a text message to him.
She noticed a man walking toward her, dressed in all black.
“I asked him what he was doing,” the young woman told the jurors. “He grabbed me around my neck.”
She then demonstrated the choke hold the assailant put on her.
“He told me not to scream,” she told the court. “I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t breathe.”
The victim was the first prosecution witness in the trial of Katarius Woodland, 22, who is charged with criminal sexual assault for allegedly dragging the woman by her neck behind a house about 2 a.m. July 18 and sexually assaulting her for about 15 minutes.
The victim, who is shorter than 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs less than 100 pounds, said she did not fight back against her assailant. Woodland is listed as 6-foot-1, 180 pounds.
In his opening statement, Assistant Public Defender Steve Langhoff acknowledged that DNA evidence linked Woodland to the crime but said the encounter was consensual.
Langhoff said the young woman had sex with Woodland for money.
“When she didn’t get paid, she got mad and called the police,” Langhoff said.
But Woodland repeatedly told police detectives he never met the teen and never had sex with anyone near 17th Street on the night she was assaulted, according to the testimony of Decatur police detective Jason Kuchelmeister.
When detectives questioned Woodland on Aug. 21, after he was arrested for an almost identical sexual assault on a 23-year-old woman on East William Street on Aug. 12, Woodland told detectives he never saw the teen victim “ever, ever, ever,” according to Kuchelmeister.
During that interview, Kuchelmeister told Woodland that semen had been collected from the teen victim, and that if Woodland wanted to claim that was from a consensual encounter, that was his opportunity to say so.
Woodland replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kuchelmeister testified. Woodland told the detective, “I don’t know her at all from a can of paint.”
When the DNA evidence connected Woodland to the July 18 assault on the teen, he was arrested in the jail Oct. 31, where he was awaiting trial for the assault on the 23-year-old woman. In that case, Woodland also allegedly applied a choke hold and dragged his victim to a secluded place.
The semen that linked Woodland to the assault was collected at St. Mary’s Hospital within a few hours, according to witness testimony.
Woodland’s trial in the teen case resumes at 9 a.m. today in the Macon County Courts Facility.