Child abuser jailed for life

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, October 8, 2009

An Opp man, convicted in August of sexually abusing a family member, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday by Circuit Judge Charles A. “Lex” Short.

Jimmy Allen Steele, 31, was convicted of sodomy in the first degree and sexual abuse in the first degree. His female victim was 3 when the abuse began.

It took a jury only 15 minutes to convict Steele on charges of first-degree sodomy and first-degree sexual abuse.

District Attorney Greg Gambril said the punishment was the maximum under law for each count.

“(Mr. Steele) was sentenced to life on the sodomy count and 10 years on the sexual abuse county,” Gambril said. “Judge Short then ordered them to run consecutively, which means that he will first have to serve the life sentence, then serve the 10 year sentence after that, instead of serving them both at the same time.”

Steele was also ordered to pay $25,000 in fines.

Steele’s acts were initially brought to the attention of law enforcement and Department of Human Resources workers when his victim “acted out” at school.

After a teacher spoke with the victim and discovered what the defendant had done to her, the teacher told the school’s guidance counselor, who then reported it to the proper authorities.

Gambril said the severity of the sentence shows that, “Judge Short has sent a message to all child sex offenders out there that these crimes will not be tolerated.”