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Man gets 37 years for statutory sexual offense

By Nathan Hardin and Seth Leonard
nhardin@salisburypost.com
The man accused of raping his stepdaughter was found guilty Thursday of first degree statutory sexual offense, which carries a maximum sentence of 446 months, or just over 37 years, in prison.
After 11 hours of deliberation, jurors reached a unanimous verdict on just one of the three charges against the 51-year-old Rowan county man. The other charges, incest and first degree rape, were labeled mistrials when the jury was unable to reach an accord.
The trial, which initially had eight charges pending, began on Monday. Judge Richard L. Doughton, a special Superior Court judge who presides throughout North Carolina, instructed the court that because the victim couldn’t provide specific details of the alleged abuse, he would require the jury to decide guilt or innocence on three of the original eight charges.
The defendant’s stepdaughter took the stand Monday to testify against her stepfather. She said the incidents started when she was 8, but she said her stepfather never threatened her physically if she told. He just said it was “our little secret.”
The now 13-year-old’s mother, who lives in Garden City, S.C., did not appear in court. The victim’s mother worked at the time as a stripper at two local strip clubs, according to all three of the prosecutor’s witnesses. The girl’s mother also dressed her daughter in provocative clothing and took her to truck stops where the mother exchanged sex for money, the victim said. The girl said she only watched from outside.
The victim’s grandmother was originally notified of the abuse in the summer of 2007, when the victim confided in a neighbor.
“She said, ‘It’s a little too late to do anything about it now,’ ” the neighbor said. “There was no emotion. I told her to call and report this or I will.”
The next day when the grandmother hadn’t called the Department of Social Services, the neighbor reported the allegations.
DSS immediately recommended the victim to Dr. Kathleen Russo, a pediatrician and the medical director at the Rowan County Child Advocacy Center.
Russo explained that although the victim did not have any physical scars, it doesn’t mean that trauma didn’t occur. The process of puberty is enough to cover up or heal any physical deformities that may have existed.
Defense Attorney Trippe McKenly used this evidence both during cross examination and in his closing argument to explain that because there was no physical deformities the jury could not find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The defendant will file for an appeal and filed an affidavit to that effect at the end of the proceedings.
The Post does not identify victims of sex crimes and is not naming the defendant to protect the identity of the victim.

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