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Testimony continues in trial of Forest Grove man accused of child sex abuse

Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - STEVEN DOUGLAS ROCKETTProsecutors continued to question witnesses Thursday in the sex-abuse trial of Steven Douglas Rockett in Washington County Circuit Court in Hillsboro.

Rockett, 46, a Forest Grove resident, faces 15 counts related to the sexual abuse of four children. Charges include second-degree rape, second-degree sodomy, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, first-degree sex abuse and using a child in a display of sexual conduct.

On Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Dustin Staten told jurors an investigation into Rockett's activities began in August 2013, after a 14-year-old girl reported to her mother their longtime family friend had abused her for years.

Defense attorney Richard Cohen presented a narrative in court that in 2009, the Schneider family was reeling from job loss, bouncing between Folsom, Calif., Texas and Oregon. Cheryl Ann and Joseph Schneider realized they needed help, and reached out to a past co-worker of Joseph’s who was then living in Aloha.

Steven Rockett and Joseph Schneider had been employed at Level One Communications in Sacramento, Calif., as designers in the high-tech industry.

Rockett drove to Folsom and picked up two of the three Schneider girls, taking them to his home for Christmas break. Some time later, Cheryl and Joseph asked Rockett to provide a home for their daughters, then ages 10, 12 and 14. He agreed and the parties drew up a limited power of attorney.

During the period the girls lived with Rockett in Aloha, they saw their mother and father, who were living in Hillsboro, only two times in person. “I didn’t have a car,” explained Cheryl.

In daily phone calls, the girls complained to their mother that they didn’t like living in the Rockett household. In particular, they disliked the chores and school requirements. But there was more.

"Do you have a memory of the first time Mr. Rockett touched you inappropriately?” Cohen asked Natalie Schneider, now 20, Thursday afternoon.

“I have not had a clear memory of the first time or a few times afterward, but I do have just the one specific memory,” she replied.

Natalie told the jury about being weighed in her bra and panties, and a photo being taken of a mole. She remembered Rockett "taking pictures of me and attempting to have sex with me in the bathroom in his house in Aloha … he turned on the shower to block the noise.”

During calls home, however, she never mentioned the situation. While she remembers few specifics of being molested, Natalie told Cohen, she did recall being at work at The Limited store in the Washington Square Mall when a call came in from her mother, who asked if Rockett had ever touched her.

Natalie answered yes.

"Have you and your sister talked about this?” Cohen asked in court. Natalie replied no, that "we thought it was isolated events. I thought I was the only one, [my middle sister] thought that she was the only one, and [my younger sister] thought she was the only one.

”If I was the only one, I didn’t have to really tell anyone. It didn’t matter what happened to me.”

Cohen asked Natalie if her mother had made Rockett into the “bogeyman," using him as a threat: “If you aren’t good we’ll send you back to live with him.”

“Yes,” she responded.

The accusations came to light in 2013, when the family was living in a Motel 6 with only two beds. The middle child had become obstinate and argumentative. Her mother was frustrated and unable to gain control of the teenager, she said, and told her “How about I just call Steve and see if you can live with [him] again?”

The girl's response floored Cheryl. “No, I hate him. If you send me there, I will run away.”

What could be so bad? asked Cheryl.

“He [expletive] raped me!” was the reply.

The youngest girl then began to cry and said she had been touched by Rockett as well.

At that point, Cheryl asked for proof and was shown Facebook posts where Rockett had offered to replace an iPhone he had purchased for her middle daughter, but only if she “worked it off.” The girl responded in the messages that she didn’t want to do that because she still had nightmares about the incidents.

How had these conversations happened using Cheryl’s phone without her knowledge? Cohen asked.

“I don’t invade [the children’s] privacy,” Cheryl Schneider said.

Cohen also asked whether Cheryl might have been upset with Rockett because he contacted the Department of Human Services when she refused to take her children back. The situation led to the Schneiders being investigated for not providing proper care of their children.

The mother also agreed that the children were witnesses to the adults drinking too much and instances of domestic violence.

The trial continues Friday in Judge Andrew Erwin's courtroom.

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