A 33-year-old Garden Grove woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually molesting three of her nieces when she baby-sat for them last year. The case was termed unusual because it involved a woman.
Arlene Whitting Jr. pleaded guilty in a compromise to one count each of molesting 4- and 7-year-old sisters and their 11-year-old cousin, children of two of Whitting’s sisters.
Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Chuck Middleton called it a rare case for the district attorney’s child abuse-rape section because almost all defendants in such cases are men. While women sometimes are convicted of physically abusing children, they seldom are convicted of sexual abuse, Middleton said.
Whitting had been tried last March on charges of molesting the older two children, but the result was a hung jury. However, she would have faced testimony from all three children, instead of the two older girls, at a second trial.
Whitting changed her plea after Middleton agreed to a maximum of three years in prison instead of the 12 she could have faced if convicted.
The case came to light a year ago when the 4-year-old told her father that her aunt had molested her. However, the girl was too frightened to testify, Middleton said.
Middleton said the juror who held out the strongest for not guilty (the guilty votes varied from six to seven on each charge) told him after the trial that she felt there was a gap in his case because he failed to show how Whitting’s arrest came about. Middleton said the 4-year-old was prepared to testify at the second trial, which he said would have closed that gap.
Whitting never looked at her sister, the mother of the two sister victims, who sat in the courtroom. The girls’ mother and the third victim’s mother, who appeared in court later, said they have not talked to Whitting since her arrest.
They said they were glad to see her convicted, but the mother of the two girls said, “She should have gotten the maximum for what she did to our daughters.”
Superior Court Judge Jean Rheinheimer ordered a 90-day diagnostic study for Whitting. She is scheduled to return to court Aug. 19 for sentencing.