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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

First day of rape trial against former Spokane police officer focuses on heavy drinking

Gordon Ennis (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

How much a woman had to drink was the recurring theme of the first day of testimony in the second-degree rape trial against former Spokane police Sgt. Gordon Ennis.

The trial, which is expected to last at least two weeks, began Monday after the first ended last year in mistrial.

Prosecutors accused Ennis of fondling one of the department’s reserve police officers in October 2015 during a house party at a Colbert home owned by officer Doug Strosahl and his then-fiance. The female officer reported that after having passed out from multiple drinks, she awoke with Ennis sitting next to her, fondling her underneath her pants.

Deputy prosecutor Kyle Treece said Ennis and the woman were friends for several months before they were both invited to the same party. Ennis, was an instructor at the department’s reserve academy where he taught firearms, and the woman was his student.

Treece said the two always talked about getting drinks together to celebrate her eventual graduation into becoming a full-fledged police officer.

“Her career goals were being met,” Treece said. “She wanted to be a police officer and she was becoming a police officer.”

All three witnesses who testified Monday described a house party with police officers and civilians where several people drank until they passed out, including the victim who had to be cared for late into the night.

According to witnesses, the small party began at about 7 p.m..

At about 10 p.m., video by Strosahl shows the woman dancing near Ennis, who was seated in a recliner-type chair in the corner of the living room.

By 11 p.m., according to text messages and testimony, partygoers moved to the hot tub and kept drinking.Witnesses said some women were dancing in the middle of the hot tub, including the alleged. One witness said a female party goer was sitting on Ennis’ lap kissing him.

By midnight, the party moved out of the hot tub while the alleged victim and the woman who was kissing Ennis passed out in separate rooms after drinking too much alcohol. Both were cleaned up and put to bed in one of the home’s six bedrooms. But then at around 1 a.m., the alleged victim was apparently out of her room and walked to a separate guest bedroom.

Throughout the more than five hours of testimony, exactly how much the woman had to drink, in what form and how often, was given to the jury of eight men and seven women.

Prosecutors argued the woman was barely coherent enough to walk or talk, let alone consent to sex.

Defense attorney Rob Cossey contended the woman was conversing like normal and even appeared flirtatious with Ennis.

Heather Strosahl, who is now married to Officer Doug Strosahl, testified that the woman didn’t appear very drunk by the time she was put to bed around 2:30 a.m. by Ennis.

Hours later the woman reported she was assaulted to friends through text messages and phone calls. She also told Doug Strosahl what had happened and reported it later that day.

Heather Strosahl said that she worked for a decade as a patient coordinator at a local hospital emergency room, and in that time, became accustomed to dealing with severely drunk people.

“She was talking,” Heather Strosahl said. “She was able to walk through the room she was staying in down to my sister’s room.”

Fitzgerald said Heather and Doug Strosahl avoided investigators after the party. According to Heather Strosahl’s testimony, her husband received multiple phone calls throughout the day but ignored them, even after the victim told him she was assaulted in his home.

She said Dough Strosahl ignored the phone calls since they were from an unknown number, but then later in the night listened to the voice mails and learned of the investigation. They also ignored knocking and a ringing bell at their front door.

“You didn’t want to work with detectives,” Fitzgerald said to Heather Strosahl. The prosecutor also told jurors that Doug Strosahl refused to be recorded during his interview with Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives.

Heather Strosahl denied the accusations. She also denied washing the woman’s clothes on purpose, which prosecutors believe could have tested positive for Ennis’ DNA. The victim’s DNA was found in Ennis’ car – on the steering wheel and gear shifter.

Heather Strosahl’s sister Gina Watkins also testified that the woman was not incapacitated from alcohol that night, even though her testimony differed from the one she gave detectives two days after the party.

The trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday morning.