Smith County Sees Increase In Sexual Crimes Against Children - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/05/07-Tyler

Smith County Sees Increase In Sexual Crimes Against Children

KLTV 7 News found several cases of accused sex offenders on the Smith County district court dockets today.  There were, what some would consider, an unusual number of cases involving crimes against children in Smith County.  The dozens of cases on this morning's docket at the Smith County courthouse included seven accused sex offenders.

At the 241st District Court, Robert Sutton, 19, of Tyler was on the docket for sexual assault of a child. 

At the 114th, Joseph Samet, 49, of Corpus Christi, was on the docket, charged with "aggravated sexual assault of a child." Also on there.... Jefferson Moore, 59, of Flint.  Moore, the former owner of Dogwood City Day Care, was convicted to life in prison in July for sexual assault of a child.  He's also facing another charge of sexual assault of a child, for which his lawyer announced in court today, they were not ready for yet.  Moore's next docket call is March 5th. 

 "Not all child molesters come from crack houses in a really bad neighborhood," said Smith County First Assistant District Attorney April Sikes.  "They can be people who are your child's coach or your child's youth pastor.  They come from all walks of life. So if you think something is wrong, say something, because it could save the life of a child."

The 7th District Court had four men on the docket, all charged with "aggravated sexual assault of a child".   They were: Derwin Stewart, 39, of Chandler; Phillip claussen, 71, of Tyler, who faces three charges of "indecency with a child" on top of one charge of "aggravated sexual assault of a child"; Johnny Jones, 55, of Tyler; and Jerry Wood, 42, also of Tyler.  Wood pleaded guilty today to "aggravated sexual assault of a child".   His victim was a toddler.

"One thing that makes these predators prey on children is they are the most vulnerable victims," said  Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham.  "Many times, they don't report it until days or weeks later, sometimes months or years later."

Smith County First Assistant District Attorney April Sikes says there were 54 cases of sexual crimes against children prosecuted in 2006. In 2005, there were 41 of them.

Sikes has put away nearly 30 sex offenders in the last two years.   She says the key to putting sexual predators away is to come forward to authorities.   "If you know of a child who's being hurt, tell somebody. Call somebody in the D.A.'s office, call the police department, the Sheriff's office," said Sikes.  She says your phone call could make a difference between a child's life being saved from the devastation sexual abuse.  

The maximum penalty for a person charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child is life in prison. The man who pleaded guilty today, Jerry Wood, Is set to be sentenced on March 23rd. Wood's brother, Andy Wood, was convicted of "aggravated sexual assault of a child".   

Oralia Ortega, Reporting.  ortega@kltv.com

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