SNOW HILL – A Whaleyville man arrested last August after
an investigation revealed a years-long pattern of sexual abuse of his now
teen-aged stepdaughter dating back to when she was nine years old was sentenced
this week in Circuit Court to 25 years in jail, 10 of which was suspended,
putting him behind bars for 15 years.
Ernest Jefferson, 41, of Whaleyville, was arrested last
August and charged with 13 different counts sex abuse of a minor, sex
abuse-continuing course of conduct, child abuse-custodian, second-degree rape,
assault, various sex offenses and others after his victim finally told
authorities about his actions after years of abuse. In January, Jefferson
pleaded guilty to a single sex abuse-minor charge and second-degree assault and
a pre-sentence investigation was ordered. This week in Circuit Court, the two
charges were merged for the purposes of sentencing.
On Aug. 22, detectives responded to Atlantic General
Hospital in regard to a sexual assault and child abuse report. Detectives met
with a 14-year-old victim who told them she had been forced to have sexual
intercourse with her stepfather, Jefferson, earlier that day. The victim’s
mother corroborated her story and physical evidence collected at AGH and later
at the residence in Whaleyville led to Jefferson’s arrest.
The victim told detectives Jefferson began touching her in
a sexual manner when she was just nine years old, but it wasn’t until he
returned from a stint in prison when she was 13 years old that he began to
force her to have intercourse with him. The victim said the sexual advances
occurred on almost a daily basis since the first time.
The victim said she was afraid to tell anybody because she
considered Jefferson dangerous and that she feared for herself, her mother and
her younger siblings. She said Jefferson would constantly threaten her mother
and on several occasions doused her with lighter fluid and threatened to set
her on fire.
According to the victim, early in the “relationship”
Jefferson would enter through her bedroom door, but when her mother became
suspicious and put a lock on the door, Jefferson began entering and leaving the
girl’s room through a window. He would use a cooler to reach the window and
when he left, he would take the cooler away and hide it.
mother said she suspected Jefferson’s activity but never reported it or took
her daughter to the hospital until the incident on Aug. 22, when she collected
enough physical evidence from in and around the bedroom to ensure a strong case
could be made against Jefferson.