Prosecution believes kidnapping was sexually motivated

Samuel Saeli

MAYVILLE — Along with a kidnapping allegation, prosecutors are also pursuing a sexually-motivated felony against Samuel Saeli, the Dunkirk man who allegedly abducted a 13-year-old boy last year.

Prosecutors believe Saeli kidnapped the boy for sexual gratification, and they say there’s evidence to prove it.

Testimony heard in the kidnapping case Tuesday at the Chautauqua County Courthouse revealed that a sexual evidence collection kit was gathered and analyzed during investigation. The prosecution brought several Fredonia police officers to the stand to discuss their role in retrieving and gathering evidence for forensic analysis at an Albany crime lab.

The sexual evidence kit contained evidence from the 13-year-old boy who was allegedly abducted by Saeli on the evening of Aug. 14, 2016, at Walmart. The parents of the young boy noticed he was missing and alerted store employees. Walmart subsequently initiated its missing child protocol and police were contacted.

The boy was located 45 minutes later near Cushing Street in Fredonia. Saeli was charged with second-degree kidnapping, a class B felony, after video footage allegedly showed him leaving Walmart with the boy.

Officer Amy Noble said she was told to retrieve a sexual evidence kit from a nurse at Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo on Aug. 15, 2016. She said she drove the kit back to the Fredonia Police Department where it was logged into evidence. The kit was then sent out and received by the state crime lab in Albany on Aug. 19, 2016.

Fredonia Detective Sergeant Dave Price said he took a swab from Saeli at the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 28, 2016, for DNA testing to be conducted at the Albany crime lab. The state lab received the package Nov. 7, 2016.

Prosecutors then called Cheryl Moorhead, state forensic scientist, to the stand to discuss DNA testing she conducted at the lab. She acknowledged testing found DNA likely to be that of Saeli on a private area of the boy. She said two areas of the boy’s underwear also found DNA likely to be that of Saeli.

During the defense’s questioning, Moorhead acknowledged it’s possible the boy could have touched Saeli’s hands during the initial encounter. That means the boy could have transferred cells of Saeli’s DNA from his hands to other areas of his body and clothing.

No seminal fluid or blood were found on evidence gathered from the boy, according to Alicia Duszak, state forensic scientist who conducted a serology test.

Before resting their case, the prosecution called the boy to the stand. He was taken off the stand minutes after answering a few questions.

The defense will have a chance to present their case when trial resumes Thursday morning. Before trial concluded, the defense requested the judge dismiss charges against the defendant. They said the evidence presented wasn’t sufficient enough for the charges, especially the sexually-motivated offense.

“No seminal fluid was found and the child testified himself and said nothing happened,” said Daryl Brautigam, defense counsel for Saeli. “There’s no proof the defendant did anything sexually gratifying.”

In refute, First Assistant District Attorney Andrew Molitor said evidence shows the defendant committed the act for his own gratification.

The Hon. Paul B. Wojtaszek denied the defense’s request for dismissal of the second-degree kidnapping charge. He said he will reserve his decision until Thursday regarding the sexually-motivated charge.