HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A Harrison County man will spend the next 25 years in prison for sexually abusing a 10-year-old child. And prosecutors say it's not the first time he's done it.
Wade Blackwell, Jr., 66, was found guilty Thursday of touching of a child for lustful purposes. The investigation began when the victim told family members in January 2015 that the defendant had been sexually abusing him for months. The parents then reported the abuse to the Harrison County Sheriff's Office.
The victim was a 10-year-old relative of Blackwell.
Through the course of the investigation, another victim was also identified. The second victim, now an adult, testified at trial about the abuse he suffered at the hands of Blackwell approximately two decades ago when he was close in age to the victim in this case.
During trial, the child victim also took the witness stand and testified against the defendant. His testimony was consistent with his earlier disclosures to his family and to law enforcement. A therapist with Memorial Behavioral Health testified that the victim disclosed the abuse to her and received mental health treatment for anger and behavioral problems that surfaced around the time of the molestation and after the disclosure.
"The jury also heard testimony from a forensic interviewer from the Child Advocacy Center who provided a recorded interview of the victim regarding the abuse from just days after the disclosure," said ADA Alison Baker, who prosecuted the case along with Jason Josef.
"It was emotionally difficult for the victim to take the witness stand and testify in court. He showed a great deal of bravery and we are glad that he now has closure of this chapter," said Baker.
It took the jury less than 30 minutes to reach a guilty verdict. Harrison County Circuit Court Judge Larry Bourgeois sentenced the defendant to 25 years in prison. Because of the nature of the crime, the defendant will be required to serve the entire sentence day for day without the possibility of early release or parole. Upon release from prison, the defendant will have to register as a sex offender.
During sentencing, the defendant was silent as Judge Bourgeois said, "nothing the court can sentence you to would be equal to the sentence you imposed on this victim."
"The teamwork demonstrated by law enforcement, the Child Advocacy Center and Memorial Behavioral Health made it possible to seek and obtain today's conviction," Harrison County District Attorney Joel Smith said. "Utilizing this multidisciplinary approach in child abuse cases allows everyone to work together to achieve our common goal of obtaining justice for the victim."
The trial began on Tuesday and lasted three days.