A Mesa man serving a life sentence for trying to rape a pre-teen girl during a burglary claims there was insufficient evidence to support his 2013 conviction.
Terry Michael Hoefler, 39, had hoped to get his conviction reversed.
However, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals determined that Franklin County prosecutors proved the elements required by law for attempted first-degree rape of a child.
Whether Hoefler pushed the girl onto the couch or carried her there, and whether it was her underwear he removed or her shorts, makes no difference, the court’s opinion said.
The girl testified at trial that Hoefler took her from the room where she was sleeping, carried her to a couch, placed a plastic bag in her mouth and removed her shorts with the clear intention of raping her, the opinion said.
It was only because the girl was able to remove the bag and yell for a relative that Hoefler did not follow through with his plan.
Hoefler is doing his time at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, according to the Department of Corrections website.
He was registered as a Level III sex offender and considered highly likely to reoffend at the time of the July 22, 2012, attack because of a 1996 first-degree rape conviction involving a 23-year-old woman in Chelan County.
His life sentence came under Washington’s “three strikes” law because he has been classified as a persistent offender.
According to court documents and police reports, Hoefler and two others were driving to Mesa when their truck began to smoke and they stopped. Hoefler and another man went to find oil at a nearby business, while the woman stayed behind in the car.
Hoefler went to the house next door to the business in north Franklin County, knocked on the door and went inside when he realized the door was open.
He walked through the house and saw items he could sell to make some cash. As he was gathering the property, he went into a bedroom and found three children sleeping in a bed.
That’s when Hoefler took the girl to the living room and tried to rape her. A relative woke up after hearing multiple children screaming and opened the bedroom door to find the scared girl saying someone was in the house and had tried to touch her, documents said.
Franklin County sheriff’s deputies were called at 2:19 a.m. after relatives confirmed the man had left the house.
In the meantime, Hoefler returned to the truck, moved it and tried wiping down the interior to remove his fingerprints. He looked upset as he told the woman something about a little girl waking up. He then ran away.
The second man in the truck was found nearby and initially accused of burglary, but investigators later determined he was not in the house that night.
Hoefler was discovered several hours later hiding in an irrigation canal near Glade North Road. He was wearing a woman’s blouse and the young girl’s skirt.
Hoefler was taken to the house to see if the victim could identify him as her alleged attacker, and though she did not recognize him she confirmed it was her skirt.
The burglary happened about six weeks after Hoefle’s release from state prison, where he had served time for attempting to elude police and possessing a controlled substance.
On the first day of trial in Franklin County Superior Court, Hoefler pleaded guilty to the residential burglary. He continued to maintain his innocence to the sex crime, but was convicted of that charge at the conclusion of the five-day trial.
The Court of Appeals — in affirming the attempted rape conviction — also dismissed Hoefler’s arguments that the trial court erroneously admitted certain testimony, the prosecutor engaged in misconduct and that his own defense attorney provided ineffective assistance.
Hoefler claimed that one of the jurors was making “funny faces” during a morning session in trial, but the appeals judges said he failed to cite the record or pertinent case law to show how that was prejudicial.