The Commonwealth’s case against former Russellville businessman, Jeffrey Glenn Harper, who was indicted in August 2021 and September 2022 on a total of 49 Class D Felony counts of sexual abuse, first degree, victim under 16, began Tuesday morning, Feb. 21 in the Logan County Justice Center.
According to Kentucky Revised Statues (KRS) 510.110(1)©, sexual abuse, first degree is explained that “A person is guilty of sexual abuse in the first degree when being 21 years old or more, he or she subjects another person who is less than 16 years old to sexual contact.” Sexual contact is defined as “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person done for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party.”
At the time of the incidents, the victim was 15 years old, while Harper was 53.
During testimony, the victim, who is a family member of Harper’s wife, stated she came to view Harper as “the father I never had.” She also stated that when he began touching her in the private areas of her body, she always refused his attempts and tried to prevent him from going further. She stated that she was never okay with Harper “touching me in places (private areas) he shouldn’t have been.” The victim stated she believed because his wife was present, nothing would ever happen.
The victim stated one evening Harper was taking her home when he inquired about who resided at a specific property. When she replied the home was vacant, Harper pulled into the driveway. The victim stated this alone scared her because she “didn’t know what was about to happen.” She then testified Harper tried to kiss her, but she resisted and repeatedly said, “Stop.” When Harper unbuttoned the victim’s pants, she said, “Stop, take me home!” and that is when Harper finally stopped. It was this incident that prompted the victim to tell someone about Harper’s actions.
Alan Simpson, Bowling Green defense attorney representing Harper in this case, questioned the victim about specific dates and times of each incident to which she responded, “I was a 15-year old kid. I’m not going to remember dates to something that I didn’t want to happen.”
Simpson also questioned the victim about how many times Harper touched her, to which she replied, “I don’t know. It was definitely more than five.” After additional pushing to get a specific number of occurrences from the victim, she responded, “I didn’t count. I would say 49 over 10 because it happened often.”
The victim testified that within a week or so of telling someone about Harper’s actions at the vacant house, Det. Kenneth Edmonds interviewed her at school. Later that same day, she told her mother, and the two of them then spoke with Harper’s wife. With law enforcement now involved, a criminal investigation began and the detective interviewed Harper.
Det. Edmonds, a 30-year veteran of the Russellville Police Department, who has been investigating child sex-abuse cases during that time, testified he became involved in this case when notified by Child Protective Services. He explained that when his investigation was completed, he would turn the information over to the Commonwealth Attorney to decide if there would be charges.
Harper’s interview with Det. Edmonds was shown in its entirety. During his interview, Harper made the following statements, “It’s nobody’s fault but mine, so here I am.” “I looked at her (the victim) as a daughter I never had.” “I messed up and I sought out more than friendship.” “I thought there was something there.” “I’m gonna stand up and take responsibility, so here I am.” “I was getting attention from her I wasn’t getting in my marriage.” “I thought I was in love with her because the attraction was there.” “I never saw her as a 15 year old girl.”
Edmonds asked Harper how many time he touched the victim. Edmonds testified that he asks about the number of times an alleged perpetrator touches a victim because “each touch is a separate charge.” He also testified to asking Harper about wanting to have sex with the victim. “He said he was thinking about it and that he wanted that to happen,” said Edmonds.
Simpson questioned why Edmonds didn’t “follow protocol” and “utilize the Barren River Area Child Advocacy Center.” Edmonds replied, “We do and we can, but we don’t have to.”
After Edmonds testimony, Simpson argued that there were no witnesses, no physical proof, and no evidence that charges 22 to 29 (touching of the breast) occurred. According to Rules of Confession, and due to lack of evidence and lack of corroboration presented during testimony, these counts were dismissed by Hon. Circuit Judge Joe Hendricks directing a not guilty verdict on these counts.
Harper, who is now 55, later testified that he believed “no crime has been committed because I never touched her skin-to-skin and I never penetrated her body.” He admitted his actions were “sinful and immoral because she isn’t my wife.” Harper also stated, “I slipped from salvation and gave into temptation.”
While being questioned about events leading up to him stopping at the vacant home, Harper stated, “She yawned, so I put my finger in her mouth, and she bit me. I said, ‘Well, that didn’t hurt.’ so she bit me harder.” He continued, “I know it sounds strange, but that turned me on.”
Billie Shaye Harper, the defendant’s wife, testified that she did not know about her husband’s actions. “I was mad. I was very confused. I felt like everything in my life was thrown into a blender and turned on the worst setting it possibly could. What Jeff was possibly on his way to doing, makes me sick every day I have to think about it.”
Mrs. Harper also testified to how the family believes they were led astray by the investigation. “When Det. Edmonds interviewed me, he said he spoke with the victim and her mother, and that they didn’t want to press charges. We believed nothing else would happen, but here we are.”
Closing arguments were presented Wednesday morning and the case handed to the jury, which consisted of six men and six women. After just over two hours of deliberation, they returned with a guilty verdict on all counts. The jury then moved into the sentencing phase.
During the sentencing phase, Karen Palmer, an investigator with Probation and Parole, explained that a Class D Felony is the lowest classification of felony in the Commonwealth. She also explained that each count carries a penalty of one to five years of incarceration, but the sentence is capped at no more than 20 years, regardless the total number of counts an individual is charged with.
Palmer stated, “Sexual abuse against a minor is mandated a violent crime. Anyone convicted of this crime must complete a sex offender treatment program before they are eligible for parole. The program takes two to three years to complete and is currently backlogged one year just to get into a program. An offender will not be released until this program is completed, even if they have met the percentage of time served allowed for early release.” She added, “Because of the nature of these charges, an automatic five year conditional discharge is added to the end of the sentence.” This means that once an offender has served out their time, whether in custody or on parole, they will continue to report to Probation and Parole for another five years.
Palmer also explained, “Someone convicted of sexual abuse, first degree, will be a lifetime registered sex offender, and the charges are not eligible for expungement.”
After two additional hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a recommended sentence of five years on count one, four years on count two, and one year on count three, all to run consecutively or one after the other for a total of 10 years. They also recommended one year on each remaining count to run concurrently or at the same time as the consecutive sentence.
Simpson requested that Harper be allowed to remain free until final sentencing. However, Judge Hendricks stated the jury had made their decision and he remanded Harper into custody. He is currently lodged in the Logan County Detention Center.
Commonwealth Attorney Neil Kerr said, “This case brought out so many emotions in our community. Shock, anger, hurt, and even an expectation by some that Mr. Harper would see no jail time. I am grateful for the jury’s verdict and that someone who harmed a child in our community is now being held accountable and being punished appropriately with prison time. Most of all, I am proud of the victim in this case for her strength to endure all of the chaos surrounding this case, and her courage to tell the truth to the jury. We should all be prayerful for her and her family, and ask God to bring peace, healing, and closure for them, but especially her.”
“Lastly, I want to share with others something that became apparent to me in this trial and it led me to a message in the Old Testament of the Bible,” Kerr added.
“In Hosea chapter 7, the prophet Isaiah is delivering a message from God to the people of Israel about their love for wickedness. They had lost their way, gone astray from God, and living sinful, immoral, lives. Lying, stealing, corruption, and sexual sin. Part of the message was this, “I want to heal Israel, but its sins are too great…It’s people don’t realize that I am watching them. Their sinful deeds are all around the…Their arrogance testifies against them, yet they don’t return to the Lord their God or even try to find him,” continued Kerr.
“Sometimes to remove the arrogance we have in our sin, in our crimes, we must be humbled by the consequences of our actions, we must be humbled by the punishment for our crimes,” said Kerr.
Final sentencing is scheduled for May 18, 2023.
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