On Wednesday, March 25, 2009, Jerry Ray King (age 47) of 983 County Road 36, Haleyville appeared before the Circuit Court of Winston County to be sentenced on one (1) count of Sexual Abuse of a Child Less Than 12 Years Old. The Honorable John Bentley sentenced King to be incarcerated by the Alabama Department of Corrections for the remainder of his life. In case King is ever released from custody, the Court further ordered him to pay a fine in the amount of $60,000.00, court costs, and reimbursement for the fees paid by the State of Alabama for his court-appointed attorney, and he was ordered to enroll in a designated sex offender program. His conviction followed a two-day jury trial in February.
During the sentencing hearing, additional testimony was presented that was not admissible during the earlier trial. One witness testified that she was in a Haleyville grocery store in April of 2008 when she and her then nine (9)-year-old granddaughter were approached by King at three separate locations in the store. He initiated a conversation with her and her granddaughter at all three locations. She stated that she did not know King prior to his approaching them. She felt that he was acting "overly friendly."
Another witness testified that in April of 2008 she was in a retail store in Haleyville with her husband, two sons, and then eight (8)-year old daughter. They were approached by King in the sporting goods section of the store while they were looking at fishing rods. King initiated a conversation with them, and, while he was talking to the parents, their daughter told them that she was going to the toy department. King then left the area where the mother and her husband were located. The mother testified that several minutes later her daughter came running back to her and her husband and that the child was very upset. The child testified that King approached her in the toy department while she was looking at Barbie dolls and began talking to her. She stated that she became afraid and went to find her mother and father.
Sgt. Steve Hicks of the Haleyville Police Department testified that he and Officer Rodney Lewis were dispatched on April 21, 2008 to the Haleyville Dixie Youth baseball fields. This followed a series of telephones calls from parents at the ball fields who were concerned about an individual who they felt was engaging in suspicious behavior. Sgt. Hicks testified that after they arrived they saw King and observed him for several minutes. When it appeared that King was making a deliberate attempt to leave through an opening in a fence, the officers approached him. Upon checking King's identification, it was learned that he was a convicted sex offender. The officers followed King to his truck, where they observed a box of facial tissues and a jar of petroleum jelly on the seat of the vehicle.
Evidence of King's three (3) prior felony convictions was admitted into evidence. They included the two (2) 1989 convictions out of the State of Michigan for Criminal Sexual Contact in the Second Degree (involving a child less than 13 years of age). Records admitted into evidence at the trial showed that these convictions arose out of the fondling of an eight (8)-year-old female in Fenton, Michigan on June 14, 1988. King was sentenced in Michigan to a term of ten (10) years to 22 years and six (6) months. Also admitted into evidence during the sentencing hearing was a 1986 Michigan conviction for Criminal Sexual Contact in the First Degree (involving a child less than 13 years of age). This offense involved sexual penetration of a female child. King was sentenced to one (1) year in prison following the 1986 conviction.
The testimony during the trial showed that King met the then seven (7)-year-old female victim in April of 2008 at the City Lake park in Haleyville, while the child was on an outing with her grandparents. The child testified that King followed them for several minutes before engaging in a conversation with her and other members of her family. During the conversation, King invited them to attend services at the church in Haleyville where he taught Sunday School. The child's mother testified that she and the victim's older sister later attended that church and, the following week, she attended with the victim. On that occasion, King engaged in conversation with the victim and her mother.
Two days later, King appeared uninvited at the residence of the victim. Her mother and sister were present. King went to a back bedroom with the victim, where she wanted to show him something on a computer. While there, King picked the child up and sat her in his lap facing him. He then kissed on her and rubbed her on her back, chest, and stomach. No immediate report was made by the child.
Deputy District Attorney Neal Cook, who prosecuted King, had the following comments following the sentencing:
I am very pleased with the sentence that Judge Bentley handed down. It is the maximum sentence allowed by law and is very appropriate in light of Mr. King’s history. He has shown that lengthy incarceration was no deterrent to his preying on young children. Only life-time incarceration will keep our children safe from him.
I strongly urge everyone to contact his or her state senator and representative and encourage him to support House Bill 426 (HB426) and Senate Bill 327 (SB327). These bills provide that the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles may not approve or order any parole or pardon of a person convicted of a criminal sex offense as set forth in the Alabama Community Notification Act. This includes any crime which is in any way characterized or known as rape, sodomy, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse, sexual torture, solicitation of a child, enticing or luring a child, child pornography, lewd and lascivious conduct, taking indecent liberties with a child, video voyeurism, or molestation of a child.
Earlier, after Mr. King’s conviction, I failed to express my gratitude to the Haleyville Police Department for its efforts in the investigation of this matter. If not for their willingness to take the time to check Mr. King’s identification and view his vehicle, it would not have been known that he was a convicted sex offender and the threat that he posed to our community. They could have simply taken the easy approach and merely asked him to leave the ball field. However, by their willingness to follow up on their suspicions, they have helped to make our community a little safer place in which to live and raise our children.