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Monte rape trial ends in hung jury

MONTESANO — A 36-year-old Montesano man, charged with first-degree rape, got a reprieve on July 24 after a hung jury was unable to come to a verdict following five hours of deliberations.

The prosecutor is deciding what steps should be taken next and whether another trial should move forward.

Elisha Zaugg was accused of threatening a woman he met on Craigslist with a knife and then raping her at a home near McCleary in January of last year.

Acting Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Katie Svoboda says in her charging documents that the woman contacted Zaugg, who had placed an ad on Craigslist and pretended his name was Mike Carson. They allegedly discussed having sex in exchange for $1,000 their emails. They met at the grocery store in McCleary on New Year’s Day of 2013, where he purchased some wine. They drove separate vehicles and she followed him out of town to a secluded home off Mox-Chehalis Road.

Inside the home, Zaugg allegedly couldn’t find the light switch and was unfamiliar with the home, Svoboda said.

They proceeded to an upstairs bedroom, where Zaugg revealed that he did not have any money. When the woman reached for her purse, Zaugg allegedly said he had a knife and showed it to her. Defense Attorney David Mistachkin said Zaugg only mentioned the knife out of concern she had a weapon in her purse.

“The defendant also told her that there was another knife and a gun in the residence,” Svoboda said.

The case hinged on whether, by producing the knife, Zaugg was threatening the woman into having sex or whether they were having consensual sex.

Svoboda alleged that Zaugg told the woman, “If she did everything she was told, she wouldn’t be hurt.”

Mistachkin says that never happened.

There was evidence presented at trial that both talked about having sex in emails. And Mistachkin argued that the sex was always consensual.

“The allegation is that Mr. Zaugg had forcible sexual intercourse with the alleged victim,” Mistachkin said. “Mr. Zaugg denies these allegations.”

Mistachkin says that Zaugg hid his identity because he didn’t want her to know who he really was.

Svoboda presented a 911 recording, which she said showed that the woman was truly frightened after the encounter with Zaugg. A nurse also testified that the woman was scared and several police officers testified.

Zaugg never testified, but the woman did for several hours during the trial, which lasted July 22 and July 23. Deliberation went until July 24 just before a lunch break was scheduled. Vidette reporter David Haerle served on the jury.

At one point, the jury voted 11-1 to declare Zaugg not guilty of first-degree rape, but there was one hold-out juror who wouldn’t go along. Jurors also considered lowering the charges to second-degree rape or third-degree rape and couldn’t reach a unanimous consent.

Svoboda said a review hearing has been set for Aug. 11 whether to move forward with another trial.

“This is a tough case and it had to be a long three days for these jurors,” Svoboda said. “It had to be frustrating for the jury in these cases when a verdict can’t be decided. I appreciate their efforts.”

The woman is not from the area and traveled here from Hermiston, Ore.