Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

July 12, 2014

Official: Sex assault case ‘worst’ prosecuted

Local district attorney discusses indictment of Jacksonville man

CHEROKEE COUNTY — The recent indictment of a Jacksonville man on multiple child sex abuse charges has made local District Attorney Rachel Patton that much more determined to champion victims of perpetrators like Kevin Morris Sr.

While it is not unusual for a grand jury to indict more than one child sex offender – along with Morris, a grand jury indicted Michael Christopher McPeters of Jacksonville and Ramon Perez of Alto for similar charges – “the case of Mr. Morris is unusual,” Patton said.

“Quite frankly, it stands out in my career as the worst (prosecuted),” she said.

Morris, 50, received two indictments, according to a list handed down by a grand jury May 27.

The two counts are comprised of 34 incidents each – a total of 68 acts perpetrated against three victims during a period between 1996 and 2004.

Morris remains incarcerated in the Cherokee County Jail on bonds totaling $800,000, according to a jailer. Charges against him include aggravated sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child, sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by exposure.

McPeters, 33, also remains incarcerated at the jail, with bonds totaling $800,000 for charges of continuous sexual abuse, aggravated sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child and sexual assault of a child – two indictments based on incidents occurring in September 2007.

Meanwhile Perez, 26, who was indicted for continuous sexual assault against a victim younger than 14 years of age for an incident that occurred in March, posted bonds totaling $25,000 and was released from jail on June 26.

“The Morris case is unusual in pretty much every aspect,” Patton said. “There's nothing 'normal' about how things worked in that case.”

Additional victims have stepped forward with complaints against Morris, and those charges are pending, she added.

Continuous sexual abuse – a new charge created by the state in 2007 as a result of a pass to push Jessica's Law, named for a nine-year-old Florida girl who had been sexually abused, kidnapped and buried alive – is something the D.A. calls “the biggest hammer we have in an arsenal of child abuse charges” against Morris.

According to the Texas District & County Attorneys Association website, continuous sexual abuse “involves repeated (two or more) acts of sexual abuse against a child under age 14 over a period of at least 30 days.”

Offenses contributing to this charge include indecency with a child (by contact with genitals or anus but not breast); sexual assault; aggravated sexual assault; aggravated kidnapping with intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually; burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a sexual offense; or sexual performance by a child.

“My term is 'super-aggravated charge' ” because of the multiple offenses against a victim, she explained. “This carries a term of 25 years to life.”

Broken down, an aggravated sexual assault – a first-degree felony – carries a penalty of five to 99 years or life, while the second-degree felonies of indecency with a child by contact and sexual assault each have a punishment that ranges two to 20 years, Patton said.

“I just hope that with these prosecutions – with the Morris case specifically – we ensure that they never see the streets again,” she said.

Patton encourages people who suspect child abuse or neglect to step up and report incidents to agencies that work specifically with such cases, such as abuse hotlines or law enforcement agencies.

“It's important to not be afraid to speak out for (victims),” she said, adding the best way to foster encouragement is to educate the community.

“I especially want to give a shout out to the Crisis Center – they do a lot of community outreach like going to schools and that kind of thing,” Patton said. “On our end, when we've had incidents reported, we try to encourage victims and their families to get counseling, because for the family, the crime is as awful as it is to the victim him- or herself.”

The Child Advocacy Center falls under the umbrella of the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties.

It serves as “the first stop for children entering the justice system because of suspected sexual abuse, severe physical abuse and those who have witnessed a violent crime,” according to the non-profit agency's website.

According to the site, “in one year, more than 65,000 cases of child abuse were confirmed in Texas.”

It also notes that one in four girls and one in six boys is sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

The local CAC can be contacted at 903-586-9118. Information also can be found at www.mycrisiscenter.com

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