Home > Article > Assistant chief's case moves to court

Assistant chief's case moves to court

MARTINSBURG - An emotional victim recounted acts of alleged sexual assault by a former Altoona assistant fire chief Thursday before Magisterial District Judge Andrew L. Blattenberger.Assistant chief's case moves to court

Matthew E. Detrich, 51, stood before Blattenberger for preliminary hearing on 15 felony counts including statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a person less than 16 years old and corruption of minors.

The victim, who said she was 15 when the alleged abuse started, accused Detrich of sexually assaulting her for nearly two years from 2014 to 2016.

The victim took to the stand Thursday before Blattenberger and was questioned by Blair County Assistant District Attorney Derek Elensky.

As she spoke, the victim was stricken with emotion and needed to take several pauses to recollect herself in front of a crowded room filled with supporters for both her and Detrich.

The victim identified Detrich when prompted by Elensky but refused to look in the direction of him or defense attorney Thomas N. Farrell.

The mother of the victim said the family was encouraged by the hearing.

In her testimony, the victim said the alleged abuse first began in summer 2014, and she accused Detrich of molesting her in a tent at his residence.

The victim, now 22, could not recall the exact month when the abuse started.

According to the victim, Detrich did not say anything to her during the alleged assault, and more sexual acts allegedly continued routinely from that point.

The victim said the two allegedly engaged in oral sex shortly after the first incident, and by October of 2014, the two engaged in intercourse.

"It continued weekly, three to four times a week, and progressed," the victim said in her bedroom, in the living room of her mother's house and in the living room of Detrich's residence.

The majority of the alleged abuse, the victim said, happened late at night when her mother and younger sister were asleep.

The victim testified that Detrich never told her directly not to tell anyone of the alleged assault, but she accused him of telling her "your mom would be mad if she found out about this."

The alleged sexual assault ended in February 2016 after the victim had gotten her first boyfriend, the victim stated.

Farrell's questions to the victim prioritized clarification of the timeline.

The defense questioned when the alleged assault first occurred, asking the defendant to pinpoint an exact month, which the victim said she could not recall.

Farrell also asked whose idea it was to go into the tent and where the mother was during the first instance, but Elensky objected for relevance before the victim could answer.

The defense also questioned if the victim had gone on vacation that summer, citing the question was to pinpoint a more exact date.

Farrell's question was once again met with disdain from Elensky.

"She was very clear that it happened in the summer of 2014," Elensky said. "I don't see any relevance to any of this."

Farrell proceeded to question the victim whether she believed that Detrich's alleged sexual assault was abnormal or wrong.

Elensky immediately objected.

"That is totally out of bounds," Elensky said. "Her credibility is not in question at all today."

Blattenberger agreed, displaying confusion about the question.

"I don't think anyone can determine what a normal response would be," the judge said.

The defense also asked about the timeline from when the acts first allegedly started to the time they were reported.

The victim cited assault allegedly first occurring in summer 2014, and she said she first told her mother of the abuse this past June.

Elensky objected to both issues and stated they were not relevant for a preliminary hearing, and Farrell obliged.

"Credibility is not in question today, at all," Elensky said. "Those are all things to hold for trial."

Both sides recessed as they agreed for the case to continue to trial.

As Detrich exited the building, one person with the family questioned him if there were other victims.

Detrich was released the day of his arrest after posting cash bail of $150,000. He declined all comment as he exited the court.

As the case heads to trial, family members of the victim said they "hope justice is served."

"I hope he gets what he deserves," the victim's mother said. "He deserves a long jail sentence."

Mirror Staff Writer Calem Illig is at 814-946-7535.

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox