VALPARAISO — A jury took just less than two hours Thursday to find a Portage man guilty on all three counts of sexual misconduct with an underage girl, who was in the foster care of the man's mother.
Taliaferro Buckingham, 38, was taken into custody and faces sentencing July 27, according to the court.
The jurors were told shortly before deliberating Thursday morning that if the young woman's testimony about being sexually assaulted as a child by Buckingham was not enough to convict him, they have other supporting evidence — including a DNA connection.
An expert witness testified this week that a DNA sample taken from Buckingham matched one taken from the victim, Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Tammy Gregg said.
Those test results and other evidence were challenged during the final hours of trial by defense attorney Michael Lambert, who said his client was designated as a "potential contributor" of the DNA in question.
Buckingham was convicted on three felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor. Each charge relates to a different sex act he carried out with the victim during December 2015 when she was 15 and living in a Portage foster home with Buckingham's mother.
Gregg said evidence this week showed at least some of the girl's four siblings saw the girl and Buckingham alone and Buckingham allegedly admitted to being alone with the girl.
The victim also knew more details about sex than she otherwise would have without the alleged abuse and her foster mother testified she wanted to be with her whenever she left the home, Gregg said.
"She did not want to be left home alone with that man," she said.
Gregg said neither the girl nor her adopted parents had reason to make up a story about the abuse. The adopted parents were receiving unauthorized, unsupervised visits with the children.
Lambert said the alleged sex did not happen and referred to the victim as a "troubled young woman."
"She's not a young girl," Lambert said.
He pointed out inconsistencies in the exact days the girl claimed to have had sex with Buckingham and said there is no evidence his client was "grooming" the girl for sex, which can occur in these types of cases.
Lambert challenged jurors to consider whether they would accept the same story from a 25-year-old woman versus one who is now 17.
"You think this was a setup? Absolutely," Lambert said. "This did not happen, ladies and gentlemen."
The trial took place before Porter Superior Court Judge Jeff Clymer.