HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A Pearlington man will spend the next 40 years behind bars after pleading guilty to the sexual abuse of a five-year-old girl.
Curtis Wathen, 27, admitted to two counts of sexual battery and two counts of exploitation of a child before a Hancock County courtroom. He was handed down a 50-year sentence, with 40 of those to serve day-for-day and ten on post-release supervision.
Authorities say the crimes happened in June 2017 when the girl's mother was at Wathen's birthday party and discovered a pornographic video of the child on his phone. She contacted Hancock County Sheriff's Office, who then had the child forensically interviewed by Hope Haven Children's Advocacy Group.
"Based on these interviews, investigators learned that the incidents had recently occurred in the family home," said assistant district attorney Chris Daniel.
A medical examination was also conducted, which provided authorities with evidence of the abuse.
"The evidence revealed that the abuse had been ongoing for at least a month," said Daniel. "The defendant was interviewed by investigators, where he confessed and disclosed that he recorded two incidents of sexual abuse."
During Wathen's plea hearing, which took place before Hon. Larry Bourgeois, the child's mother was allowed to address the defendant.
""[I] will never forget what you have done. It has been one of the hardest lessons in life, but we are moving on, and we won't allow you to hold us back anymore. I forgive you and pray every day that God will come into your life. As a mother, I am more educated, stronger, and wiser. I hope anyone going through this will step forward because there is help and it's hard but people will fight for you and fight for justice."
Judge Bourgeois also addressed Wathen before handing down the sentence.
"[Y]ou took advantage of a five-year-old child – a baby – and you filmed it. You took her dignity and her innocence. You ruined lives."
Officials say given the nature of the crimes, the sentences will be served day-for-day without the eligibility of probation or parole, and once released, Wathen must register as a sex offender.