Murdered Roseburg child’s mother takes stand

The trial of an Oklahoma teen accused of raping and murdering a 5-year-old Roseburg girl in July 2010 began this morning with opening arguments and testimony from the girl’s mother.

Dustin Michael Wallace, 18, of Hugo, Okla., appeared before Douglas County Circuit Judge Randy Garrison, whom Wallace decided to let hear the case in lieu of a jury.

Sitting in the courtroom, he listened as Deputy District Attorney Shannon Sullivan recounted for the court the events the state alleges took place the day Sahara Grace Dwight was killed.

Wallace had flown to Oregon from Oklahoma to visit his father, Carl Wallace, who was living in the Sutherlin area and dating the victim’s mother, Lydia Sahlberg, whose last name at the time was Dwight.

Sahlberg and Wallace’s father had been dating for approximately 18 months, according to Sullivan.

Sahlberg later testified that she avoided bringing her children around Dustin Wallace because “he was weird. I had a weird vibe around him.”

However, on the evening before Sahara’s death, she and Wallace’s father took their children to dinner at the home of a friend, and Carl and Dustin Wallace spent the night at the home of Sahlberg and her children.

That night, Sahlberg gave Dustin Wallace some videos to watch, while she and Carl Wallace went to bed. They were later awakened by the sound of Dustin Wallace by the bedroom door.

During opening arguments, Sullivan said Dustin Wallace called out, “Sahara. Something is wrong with Sahah. I think someone broke in.”

Sahlberg testified she rushed in to check her on her daughter and found her unresponsive on her bed.

Wallace’s attorney, Laura Anne Fine, did not dispute the essence of Sullivan’s account, though she contended that the state’s claim that Wallace intended to kill Sahara was wrong.

“Dustin Wallace intended to sexually assault” Sarah Dwight, Fine said. “He never intended to kill her. He is not guilty of aggravated murder.”

During the police investigation, Wallace and his father were asked to come to the Roseburg Police Department for interviews. It was then that Wallace, who was 16 at the time, allegedly admitted entering the girl’s bedroom in the middle of the night and assaulting and ultimately killing her, according to court documents.

Wallace’s attorney moved to suppress statements made by Wallace during these interviews on the grounds that police ignored his invocation of his right to remain silent. The motion to suppress the evidence was later withdrawn.

Wallace was arrested after his interviews with police and has been lodged ever since at the Douglas County Jail. He faces charges of aggravated murder, first-degree rape, first-degree sex abuse and first-degree unlawful sexual penetration. If convicted, Wallace could fact at least 30 years in prison or a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The other crimes of which Wallace is accused are Measure 11 offenses and carry mandatory minimum sentences.

The trial is scheduled to continue through this week and into the next.

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