BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Dorothy Sandusky took the witness stand Tuesday and answered a question that has dogged her since lurid child sex-abuse allegations were lodged against her husband last year.
How's her hearing?
"I think it's pretty good," she said.
The question — from her husband's attorney, Joseph Amendola — and her answer were aimed squarely at undoing the damage done by multiple witnesses who claimed they had been molested within earshot of 69-year-old adoptive mother of six.
For months, people have wondered how she could not have known, if the allegations against her husband, Jerry Sandusky, were true.
How could she not have heard something, given that accuser after accuser has said Jerry Sandusky molested them in the basement of their Lemont home?
Her answer Tuesday suggested there had been nothing to hear.
As she stressed in no uncertain terms Tuesday, she never saw or even suspected anything inappropriate occurring between her husband and the dozens of young visitors he invited to sleep over each year.
Her testimony concluded a day in which the former Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach's defense cast questions over several elements of the prosecution's case.
Jurors heard an audio recording of a conversation between a state trooper and a lawyer for one of Sandusky's accusers in which the pair discussed elements of other alleged victims' allegations. Defense lawyer Karl Rominger argued that leak may have influenced the account of abuse that the accuser eventually told.
Another defense witness testified that the mother of the man identified as Victim 1 told neighbors that she would "own [Sandusky's] house" once her son's civil suit was settled. Called to the stand, the woman denied the conversation ever happened.
But it was Dorothy "Dottie" Sandusky who commanded the attention of the Centre County courtroom Tuesday.
Dressed in a lime-green sweater set, she described a home that operated much like a boardinghouse, booked to constant capacity with a revolving door of friends, overnight guests, and children — hers and other people's.
"We enjoyed helping kids, but we knew we couldn't take any more into our family," she said, referring to the couple's six adopted children.
Because of her status as a witness, Dorothy Sandusky had spent most of her husband's trial on 51 counts of child sex abuse absent from the courtroom, but her presence was felt.
Many of Jerry Sandusky's eight accusers have referenced her as part of what they described as the most horrible years of their lives.
The man identified as Victim 1, for instance, testified last week that she seemed aloof and uninterested when he and other children were brought into her home by Sandusky.
The young man identified as Victim 4 testified June 11 that she unwittingly interrupted her husband demanding oral sex from him while the three shared a hotel room during a 1999 Penn State bowl game.
And in one of the most troubling bits of testimony, Victim 9 told jurors Friday that he screamed for her help to no avail as Sandusky raped him in the basement of their home.
In her testimony Tuesday, Dorothy Sandusky stopped short of specifically calling her husband's accusers liars but freely offered critical assessments of their childhood behavior.
"He was demanding and very conniving," she said of Victim 4, who told the story of the bowl game encounter. She offered an alternate account of that night, saying she walked in on her husband and the boy — both fully clothed — arguing about a banquet they were scheduled to attend.
She described another accuser as "clingy" and one more as a "charmer" who always "knew what to say and when to say it."
But when asked under cross-examination what reason the eight young men that have testified against her husband had to lie, she struggled.
"I … I … I don't know what it would be," she said.
Earlier Tuesday, psychologist Eliot Atkins testified that some of Jerry Sandusky's behavior toward young boys could be explained by a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder.
The condition, marked by excessive displays of emotion and unrealistic expectations of loyalty from others, explains the overwrought language the former coach used in what one accuser described last week as "creepy love letters" written after he tried to break off contact, Atkins told jurors.
But when prosecutors called their own psychologist, John Sebastian O'Brien II, to the stand, he balked at Atkins' analysis.
"Mr. Sandusky has been extremely high-functioning over the years," he said. "I don't see anything to suggest a personality disorder."
With only one more day of defense testimony expected, it remained unclear Tuesday whether Jerry Sandusky planned to testify in his own defense.
Pressed on that question as he entered the courthouse Tuesday morning, Amendola replied with a grin: "Stay tuned."