GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A 60-year-old Gulfport man was found guilty Thursday of molesting a 10-year-old girl. Orvin Harris received the maximum sentence for each of two charges of Unlawful Touching of a Child.
Prosecutors said the crime happened in 2012, and was discovered after the child told her parents Harris had sexually abused her several times. Harris is a relative, and the girl would spend the night at his house. The child told a jury that Harris would abuse her when she stayed at his house.
Further testimony at trial revealed that Harris had previously molested two family members in Alabama more than 20 years ago.
"The State was able to utilize a recent ruling of the Mississippi Supreme Court that allowed the testimony of two prior victims of the Defendant to assist the jury in making their decision," said District Attorney Joel Smith. "It showed great courage on the part of the victim and the family to come forward."
The defense said there wasn't enough evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. But during closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Alison Baker reminded the jury that the child had "no motivation to fabricate the abuse."
She also noted that Harris used his relationship with the child to influence her to keep the abuse a secret.
During sentencing, Judge Lisa Dodson noted that as the child's family member, Harris was in a position of trust and that the "child relied on him for protection, not abuse."
The judge noted that the abuse happened more than once and that this is the type of abuse that children never get over.
Judge Dodson sentenced Harris to the maximum of 15 years in each count to run consecutively to each other for a total of 30 years. Ten years of the sentence was suspended, leaving 20 years to serve.
Because of the sexual nature of the crime, the sentence must be served day for day, without the possibility of parole. After release, he will be placed on five years of post-release supervision.