It took a Pulaski County jury only 20 minutes Monday to return a guilty verdict against a Hiwassee man charged with the sexual battery of an 11-year-old child.
After learning from Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor that 59-year-old James Edward McPeak already has 1979 convictions for rape, forcible sodomy, abduction and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, the jury recommended McPeak serve the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
According to Fleenor, the victim testified she was left at McPeak’s home in the spring of 2011 and that both of them slept on a fold out sofa bed in the living room of the home. The girl is not being identified due to the nature of the case and her age.
Fleenor said the girl told the jury she awoke one evening to find McPeak touching her “privates” under her pajamas and underwear, so she rolled out of the bed and started to cry.
Fleenor said the victim indicated McPeak told her “it made him feel young.” She said McPeak also told her she better not tell anyone or he would go to jail.
A social worker and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Billy Ritter testified McPeak denied having any inappropriate sexual contact with the child. However, when pressed about the incident, Fleenor said, McPeak told officers if he touched her it would have been accidental.
Defense attorney Greg Hagar pointed out to the jury that the victim told authorities in one interview that the incident occurred in 2010 and in another interview she said it was in 2011. He said the girl wasn’t even close to the date
In closing remarks, Fleenor made reference to evidence that the girl had an unstable home life and was moved around a lot. “When you move from town to town and school to school and home to home – when your mother leaves you with a child molester, the last thing on your mind is the date,” he told the jury.
Hagar objected to Fleenor calling McPeak a child molester, saying Fleenor was inflaming the jury. The court, however, overruled the objection.
McPeak will be formally sentenced Aug. 19. At that time, the sentencing judge can either impose the jury’s recommended sentence or reduce it if he sees fit.