Parts of this post were used in Aggravated.
This post and the three that follow it comprise an expanded early version of a chapter in Aggravated. I trimmed this material down considerably for the book, so if you’ve read the book you don’t need to read these unless you want to. They will simply provide a much more detailed account of the same circumstance. By now you know that I believe Hanna lied extensively before and during the trials. This is one of those lies. I call it The First Lie just because it was the first statement of hers that I was sure I could prove was false. It might seem insignificant at first, but, in both trials, Hanna testified that, at the age of twelve, when she was in seventh grade, she ran in a one-mile cross-country race for her school against 300 or so other girls, and placed 16th.
That’s it. That’s the lie. Actually, it’s half-lie, half-truth. As I believe was the case with so many of Hanna’s other falsehoods, it is a lie grounded in reality. At the age of twelve, Hanna did run in a mile-long cross-country race for her school, and the race was at the beginning of her seventh grade year. The rest of her statement is false, though. I think the main reason Hanna mentioned the race in the trials was to use it as a springboard for introducing the first incident of molestation. I believe she lied about that too, and I do cover that alleged incident in Aggravated, but these three posts will just cover the race. As far as I know, Hanna told parts of the story about this four times on record, twice under oath. That doesn’t mean she never spoke about this to anyone else. It simply means those four times are the only records I have of it.
A simple summary of Hanna’s story would be that her mother invited the Sirois’ to watch her run in her first cross-country race for her school. The race was held about the time school started in the fall in 2001, and she said it was held in Langford, Texas (about 80 miles away from Deep Springs). She did amazingly well in the race, then both families ate a large lunch at a restaurant in Langford before driving back in their separate vehicles to relax at the Sirois’ house for a few hours. Hanna said that while they were there Steve forced himself on her in various ways, then Hanna and her family went home. She expanded on that story several times before she testified about it during the trials. Parts of each version were true, parts of each were definitely false, and each new version was different from the previous one. Let’s see which was which.
Hanna said nothing about the cross-country race in her original affidavit (April 2004), but by May of that year she told Nina Dixon that the first molestation “happened after the first cross-country meet in August 2001.” She gave Dixon no other details about the race, but by the time she talked to Tom Swearingen in 2006, her story had taken on a lot more detail. Her trial testimony about the race was the first statement of hers that seemed suspicious to me, though. I didn’t get to read Dixon’s summary until 2016, and I didn’t have copies of the audio files of Tom’s interviews until 2013, but I had Hanna’s testimony from the second trial by 2008, and the transcripts of the first trial soon after that, so I read her statements about this race in reverse order of their creation. Her account of the race and an alleged incident afterward weren’t tied to Count I in any way, except possibly by the date, because Count I claimed that the first incident occurred “on or about September 1, 2001. Hanna, of course, later claimed that the first incident happened nearly three months later.
In her affidavit, Hanna said “the first time I was sexually assaulted by Steve Sirois was in late August or early September 2001 when I was 12 years old,” and also said that it “happened the first time I had spent the night at Steve Sirois’s house.” The affidavit didn’t mention either the cross-country race in September or going to see the first Harry Potter movie in November, which was actually the first time she and her brother, Aaron, spent the night.
In May 2004, a month after the affidavit, Hanna said nothing to Nina Dixon about spending the night after the race, but did say that the race was in August and was followed by a kissing/groping incident. During that same counseling session, Hanna also told Dixon about the night they all went to see Harry Potter, clearly delineating the race and the movie as two separate occasions separated by a few months. In doing so, Hanna made a substantive change to the story, and pushed the first incident to November, even though she swore to something completely different in the affidavit. She wasn’t done, though. Her accounts of both of those incidents changed several more times.
I think that, when Hanna created her stories for the affidavit, she claimed that the first incident of abuse happened the first time she spent the night at the Sirois’ house because it made sense to her that something like that would happen at night in a bed. At the time she said that, she may have simply forgotten that she and Aaron didn’t spend the night until late-November. Later, after remembering the difference in the dates, she just rearranged her story to make it fit, moving the “first” incident to a few months later. She had already told Deputy Willard Knox that the first incident had happened at the end of the summer, so then she must have figured she had to fill that earlier date with something else. The race had been held about that time, and they did stop at the Sirois’ afterward, so I believe she just plugged in the after-race scenario. Using that August/September date also caused other problems for her overall narrative, as you will see. Are you confused yet? Let’s look at all of Hanna’s cross-country race scenarios, and see what we can make of them.
Hanna, who was twelve in September 2001 (at the time of the cross-country race), and fifteen (when she created the affidavit in April 2004), didn’t mention the race in the affidavit at all. Instead, she said that “late August or early September 2001” was the first time she spent the night at the Sirois’ house, and was also the first time she was molested. Her specific details of that molestation (oral sex being performed on her after everyone else was asleep) became Count I against Steve.
Then, a month later (May 2004), she told AdaDixon about an incident involving kissing and groping that “happened after the first cross-country meet in August 2001,” but didn’t say anything about spending the night.
By the time of her interview with Tom, two years later, when she was seventeen, her version of the race and the incident afterward had expanded. Hanna told him, “On September 8th of 2001, I had a cross-country meet in Langford. It was my first meet.” She added that her mom encouraged the Sirois’ to come see her run, and said, “I did really good in the meet. I was very proud of myself.” She also described incidents that happened after the race, but again said nothing about spending the night.
A couple of months later, in Trial #1, she was asked by Elmer Ross how she remembered she was twelve when the molestation started. She said, “Because it was around my first cross-country meet. I was in the seventh grade.” A minute later she said, “I remember that day particularly, because I had ran against 300-some-odd girls and I had gotten 16th place. And I was very proud of myself because I was one of the youngest girls there.” She added that the race was in the “late morning, around 10:00, 11:00 or so,” and said that it finished “whenever you got done running. It was normally over about maybe 20 minutes after it started. It was very short. It was only a mile.” A lot more detail, right? Have any runners spotted what’s wrong already?
One month after that, in Trial #2, Hanna was again asked how she knew she was “12 when it started,” and she said, “I remember I was in the seventh grade, and I ran cross-country. And my first meet was in Langford, and I ran a mile. I got 16th place out of 300 and something girls. And I was really proud of myself and I will never forget it.” Ross then asked when this meet was, and she said “It was September. On the 8th actually.” Ross asked her how she remembered that “date so many years later,” and she said “It’s also a very good friend of mine’s birthday.” Later in the trial, Cleveland Sanford asked her who the friend was. She said it was Rhonda Bresnick.
Notice how practiced Hanna’s spiel became by the second trial? Instead of waiting to be asked, she squeezed in all her answers at once. She still remembered the race because she was proud, but now also because it was her “good friend” Rhonda’s birthday. Does adding Rhonda as a second reason to remember the date seem to you like she was trying too hard the second time around? It did to me.
A Recap: Affidavit: Spending the night in “late August or early September” (but no mention of a race). Dixon’s Summary: An incident “after the first cross-country meet in August 2001” (but no mention of spending the night). Tom’s Interview: “September 8th of 2001,” “a cross-country meet in Langford,” “my first meet,” “I did really good” “I was proud of myself” (no mention of spending the night). Trial #1: twelve years old, “in the seventh grade,” she remembered “that day particularly” because she “had ran against 300-some-odd girls, and I had gotten 16th place,” “very proud of myself because I was one of the youngest girls there,” it was “late in the morning, around 10:00, 11:00 or so,” finished “whenever you got done,” “maybe twenty minutes,” “very short,” “maybe a mile.” Trial #2: She was “in the seventh grade, and I ran cross-country,” her “first meet was in Langford, and I ran a mile. I got 16th place out of 300 and something girls. And I was really proud of myself and I will never forget it,” “It was September. On the 8th, actually,” and she remembered it because “It’s also a very good friend of mine’s birthday.”
How many changes was that? Oddly, no one asked her what her time was in the race, something all serious runners would probably remember. In the next post we’ll take a close look at the lie and see whether it’s true, or even likely.
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