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27 years later, jury hears of four-year-old’s alleged rape by neighbor man

27 years later, jury hears of four-year-old’s alleged rape by neighbor man. (WPEC)

A woman says she was just four years old when a neighbor man raped her 27 years ago in West Palm Beach.

Now, finally, the woman’s story is in front of a jury.

For starters, it took the woman 17 years to come forward.

Then, the case essentially got lost electronically for another eight years at the police department.

76-year old John Sheehan is on trial, accused of violating the four-year-old back in 1990 and ‘91, while he watched the child for her mother.

Wednesday prosecutors played three different recordings where they say Sheehan confessed.

One piece of audio was the victim confronting Sheehan in a controlled police phone call, which got emotional.

“I have regretted that over the years,” Sheehan can be heard saying.

“I’m 29 and I’ve lived through hell,” the victim later says. “This is the videotape that never stops.”

Jurors also heard the surreptitious recording when detectives first spoke with Sheehan. The officers said Sheehan told them he had no problem talking with them, because of the statute of limitations.

“That was 25 years ago,” Sheehan says in the audio. “That’s beyond the statute of limitations.”

One of the detectives later told Sheehan there is no statute of limitations in this kind of case.

Police said the victim came forward in 2008. Trial testimony revealed the case essentially got lost at the police department.

On Wednesday, West Palm Beach Police spokesman, Sgt. David Lefont, told CBS12 a rookie officer got the case.

Lefont said while the officer waited for an agency in another state, where the woman had moved, to conduct a photo lineup, that officer rotated out of the detective bureau.

The case remained in the officer’s electronic files at the detective bureau— untouched— until that officer returned to the bureau eight years later, according to Lefont.

Lefont called it an honest mistake, but one that detectives were able to recover from, and finally bring charges.

Late Wednesday Sheehan prepared to take the witness stand in his own defense, expected to tell jurors of his various medical issues, and that he was not in top mental form when speaking with police.

The trial is expected to wrap up Thursday.

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