Even in a small town where everyone knows everyone else, there are eyes on Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial.
That has a few people uneasy.
“It’s like almost a taboo to talk to someone about (the trial),” agreed Rosie DiManno, who owns a hair salon in a shopping plaza across the street from Rittenhouse’s North Carolina home.
Rittenhouse, 41, is on trial for the February 2015 kidnapping, assault and sexually assaulting of 11-year-old Cassandra McCloud, whose mother, Kristy Webb, says Rittenhouse snatched her daughter from their house in Toano, Va., with her mother by her side. Webb testified at Rittenhouse’s trial that she feared “his overwhelming affection” for her daughter after he had held her in a room overnight and turned his body against her after she found out the girl needed to use the bathroom.
It’s not the jury that’s wrong, but the culture, DiManno said:
“Just because you have a baby shower and people come in and touch you all day long doesn’t mean you’re a serial rapist.”
DiManno recalls another client, a male, who came into her salon a few years ago with his wife and nieces. The man learned that a victim of child molestation was bringing her young children to the salon to have their hair colored. “When it came to me, it was sickening and just crossed my personal boundaries,” she said. “I said, ‘If that ever happened to your wife, there would be consequences. That’s not good for the children.’ ”
Another salon owner, a man, did just that, she said. His family owned a laundromat next door to DiManno’s hair salon and brought his children in for a shampoo as soon as he got off work. “He came in and the whole thing — ‘That’s not a good thing,’ ” DiManno said. “I said, ‘No, you’re wrong.’ ”
She still feels that way about the jury in Rittenhouse’s case.
After the day in court in June, the jurors heard from the prosecution and defense and heard testimony from the father of a sexual assault victim. Outside of court, there were families cheering on both sides and a few people reciting religious prayers.
People from the surrounding community don’t talk much about it. Even the hairstylists who work at both shops aren’t sharing information about what happened in court.
“A lot of people are saying good things about Mr. Rittenhouse, but everyone’s kind of staying away,” said Hailee Eker, 24, who works at the salon across the street from Rittenhouse’s home.
DiManno also said even people in the salon, trying to stay safe on the job, aren’t willing to share if they’ve seen anything at all. She said it’s hard for a client to trust a hairstylist after witnessing all the emotions in court.
“It’s emotional. It’s the jury deciding if you’re guilty or not guilty. It makes us feel less safe,” she said.
Eker said she’s been afraid to leave the shop after school, “just in case you see something happen.”
“It makes it better if I can be in the store alone,” Eker said. “Before, I would be freaking out, wondering.”
DiManno feels that hesitation is no longer necessary.