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The 6-year-old girl kept sliding into a slouch in the slippery chair behind the witness stand Wednesday morning. But under questioning from prosecutor Jill Gerber, the girl clearly said that the man she knew as "Papa Gene" or "Grandpa Gene" touched her "colito," a Spanish slang word she used for her private parts.

"Papa Gene" is Gene Hegerman, 54, who is on trial in Ramsey County District Court on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The abuse allegedly took place at the day-care center he helped his wife run out of their home in the 1400 block of Iglehart Avenue in St. Paul.

The girl and her older brother attended the day care from January 2005 to December 2007. The girl said she was 4 and 5 years old when Hegerman touched her private parts, licked her ear and "told me pinky swear don't tell anybody," the girl said.

Nobody else saw it because he would take her into the basement bathroom and remove her pants and underwear, the girl said.

"Are you sure he wasn't just helping you go potty?" Gerber asked.

"I'm sure," the girl said.

"Do you remember what he said?" Gerber asked.

"He just said stuff."

"What was it he said?"

"Could I be his girlfriend."

Hegerman originally was charged in connection with three alleged victims. One charge of first-degree and one of second-degree criminal sexual conduct were dismissed. With the jury out of the room, defense attorney Christopher Champagne asked the judge to strictly instruct witnesses to avoid mentioning any other victims.

In his opening statement, Champagne implored the jury to remember that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

"This is a truly dangerous case," he said. "These types of allegations are very emotional ... every parent's nightmare. Your duty is to put aside the emotion and decide this case on the facts."

The girl's mother did not learn about the alleged abuse until Dec. 19, 2007, when Angela Yeong, a Ramsey County child protection worker investigating an alleged spanking incident at the day care, came to their home.

Yeong's tape-recorded interview abruptly stopped after the girl blurted out that "Grandpa Gene" had touched her "colito." Yeong testified Wednesday that she referred the case to the Midwest Children's Resource Center at St. Paul Children's Hospital.

Sara Wirkkala was the registered nurse who interviewed and examined the girl at Midwest Children's. Jurors saw that videotaped interview Wednesday and saw the girl bouncing with energy and giggling as she climbed into a chair. They also saw her demeanor turn serious, at least for a while, as she told Wirkkala about what happened.

District Judge Salvador Rosas told jurors they could expect to get the case later today.

Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551