Woodward changes his plea to guilty

SUBLETTE COUNTY – A Marbleton man, charged with taking immoral and immodest liberties with a girl younger than 17, changed his plea to guilty, based on a plea agreement.

Donald K. Woodward was charged in July 2020 with felony third-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

The girl is from another county and visited Woodward, a family friend, in July to celebrate her birthday, according to court records.

A detective’s affidavit said the girl was “very adamant about coming home” and said Woodward had showed her his genital area and showered with her but did not touch her. She was upset and told her parents, it says.

When he was charged, Woodward was 75. Since then he was stricken badly with COVID-19 and required surgeries after a broken hip and a fall injuring his head, records show. His attorney had requested continuances of several months before Woodward was considered able to appear for his arraignment.

Woodward had pleaded not guilty on Dec. 3 in 9th District Court and a trial was set for May 10.

Deputy county attorney Clayton Melinkovich and Woodward’s attorney Geoffrey Phillips agreed to recommend deferred prosecution if Woodward successfully completes five years of supervised probation. At the March 10 change-of plea videoconference hearing, 9th District Judge Marv Tyler asked Woodward, who used oxygen and had trouble hearing, if he would give a factual basis for his guilty plea.

Woodward said the young girl is deathly afraid of spiders and did not want to go into rooms alone; she kept wanting to take showers and he would sit in the hall, he said. In the meantime, he inflated his airbed while the water warmed up again, he said.

By the time she took her third shower, Woodward said he needed to take one as well and she needed to let him take one. He said he told her he would have to get in with her; her mother called while the girl was taking her fourth shower and he said the mother thought it was funny.

He had his computer and clean clothes in the hallway, waiting to take his shower, and thought the girl asked him to join her.

Woodward asked her if she’d ever seen a penis before and she said yes, her brothers’ and father’s. “I got in the shower with her. I misunderstood what she asked.”

He had concerns about some of the things the girl said about seeing her father’s penis “but that has no bearing on what I did.”

Both got dressed and sat on the bed talking and playing with the computer until she went to sleep, he said. “I didn’t touch her, she didn’t touch me. We just sat and talked, that’s all, Your Honor.”

Judge Tyler reminded Woodward he is still on bond and is not yet sentenced.

The maximum penalty for third-degree sexual abuse of a minor is 15 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.