SIKESTON - A Sikeston man accused of molesting children was convicted Thursday in Cape Girardeau.
Following the Tuesday and Wednesday trial in Cape County under Judge Benjamin Lewis, Jack Pruitt was found guilty of four counts of sodomy in the first degree and one count of molestation, according to Sikeston Department of Public Safety Director Drew Juden.
The jury was out for less than an hour deciding the verdict. Thursday was used for sentencing recommendations, and the jury recommended 15 years for the child molestation charge and four life sentences - one for each of the four sodomy charges.
"We're extremely pleased with the verdict," said Capt. Mark Crocker of DPS. "Getting a sexual predator off the streets is always a good thing."
The offense was reported to DPS in June 2003. A 5-year-old child was molested while spending the night with Pruitt, who acted as a friend of the family and offered to baby-sit. He said the incident occurred at the suspect's home at 809 Greer St. Following Pruitt's arrest, a search warrant was executed at his residence, where law officials discovered sexually explicit photos and other items that were used to prosecute Pruitt.
Sentencing will be Sept. 12, before Judge Lewis in Cape County. He can exceed the jury's recommendation, but cannot minimize it. The case was prosecuted by Susan Boresi of the Missouri Attorney General's office, who was called in at the request of Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd. Pruitt was represented by Brandon Sanchez of the Public Defender's office.
Juden said he was extremely pleased with the work of his officers and detectives as well as the contributions from the Scott County Juvenile Office and Missouri Children Services who also assisted in the investigation, which began in May 2003.
"Our (DPS) hope is that everyone's awareness to this problem might be raised a little because of the results of this case so that all of our children are not placed at risk to sexual predators like this," Juden said.
These types of cases, while naturally difficult on the victims and their families, also take a toll on the officers and case workers that become involved, Juden noted.
"While all family members have expressed their appreciation for the work done in this case, these are the type of cases that we hope we never have to work again," Juden said.