Man pleads guilty to burglary, attempted sexual abuse

Published 11:00 am Saturday, June 8, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Derrick Dewayne Kelley, 41, recently pleaded guilty to charges of third degree burglary and attempted sexual abuse of a child under 12 in front of Circuit Judge Lex Short.

Derrick Dewayne Kelley

According to the Covington County District Attorney, the charges against Kelley stemmed from two separate incidents.

He was charged with third degree burglary in January 2021 after he unlawfully entered the residence of an acquaintance during the early morning hours and stole her wallet.

Later, during the summer of 2021, Kelley was staying in a residence with a woman and her 11-year-old child when he tried to touch the child underneath her clothing. Although the child immediately told her mother what Kelley had done, her mother did not report the crime to law enforcement. It was not until after the child returned to school in the fall that the incident was reported and investigated. Due to the delay in the reporting, it was initially unclear where the crime against the child had happened, and the investigation was conducted jointly by Covington County DHR, Covington County Sheriff’s Office, and Andalusia Police Department.

The child’s mother was also prosecuted for endangering the welfare of a child for her inaction by failing to report the crime or to keep Kelley away from the child after learning he had tried to sexually abuse her, according to the district attorney.

Kelley was sentenced to 16.5 years imprisonment for each conviction. Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter, who prosecuted the cases, thanked the Covington County Sheriff’s Office, Andalusia Police Department, Covington County DHR, and the Covington County Child Advocacy Center for their investigation of Kelley.

“Shortly after I took office, we were able to open a child advocacy center here in Covington County,” said District Attorney Walt Merrell following the guilty plea. “In the years since then, our ability to investigate child abuse reports as a team has greatly increased our success rate in holding the perpetrators of crimes against ‘the least of these’ accountable. Because this child’s mother did not report what had happened to her, any tangible evidence that may have existed was lost before the investigation began. Despite that, and largely through the forensic interview at the CAC, we were able to send Derrick Kelley to prison for this crime, as well as for the unrelated burglary. I appreciate the hard work of CAC Director Mindy Barton, who handles the lion’s share of forensic interviews with children, and of the men and women who serve on our multi-disciplinary team, which investigates reports of child abuse.”

Jeter, a 20-year veteran prosecutor who has prosecuted child abuse cases throughout her career, added that, “Summer break can be a time when children are more vulnerable to predators, but it is not unusual for these crimes to go unreported until children return to school, where they often confide in a teacher or friend. In spite of her mother’s failure to take actions to protect her, this child continued to tell what Kelley had done to her. Her courage and the commitment of our multi-disciplinary team to investigate child abuse are the reasons Derrick Kelley pled guilty. He is in prison, where he belongs.”