Pair sentenced for sex crimes

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 21, 2014

Circuit Judge Lex Short Thursday handed sentences to two men convicted of crimes against a 13-year-old girl.

In August, a jury found Donar Lafayette Strickland, 49, guilty of rape II, sexual abuse II and furnishing alcohol to a minor, and Robert Craig Morgan, 35, guilty of furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Short sentenced Strickland to the maximum sentences, which total 21 years and six months in prison. He is also responsible for court costs, a $200 assessment to the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund and fines in the amount of $1,200.

Once Strickland is released from prison, he is ordered to comply with the sex offenders’ registration and notification act.

Morgan received a sentence of six months, must pay court costs, a $100 assessment to the crime victims’ compensation fund and a fine of $500.

According to Star-News’ archives, the charges against the two men stemmed from incidents which occurred in January 2009, when the then-13-year-old had been left in their care.

Eight months later, the victim reported the abuse, and the Covington County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Human Resources conducted a joint investigation. The men were indicted in 2011. The jury heard evidence from the victim, the investigator and the social worker, as well as from an expert witness who explained that delayed reporting and severe depression are often effects suffered by victims of child abuse. Both Strickland and Morgan testified in their own defense.

Assistant District Attorney Emmett Massey served as prosecutor for the case.

“It is gratifying to see justice for the victim,” he said. “She has remained strong throughout the entire ordeal – from the crimes themselves to the trial. It never ceases to amaze me that predators have no regard for the long-term trauma they inflict on their victims. I pray for this victim – that she continues to heal and that the sentencing of these men will bring her closure.”

District Attorney Walt Merrell said, “crimes against children are the most heart-wrenching cases we prosecute, and they never get easier, no matter how many we try.”

“Child predators employ various means to keep their victims from disclosing the abuse – from fear to shame to guilt,” Merrell said. “This child kept her abuse a secret for over a year, and by the time she did report, much of the physical evidence from the scene of the crime had long been destroyed. Emmett did an excellent job prosecuting the case that rested almost exclusively on the word of the victim. I commend him for his hard work and perseverance.”