Travis Eaker, 29, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years each in the Missouri Department of Corrections on one count of first degree assault and two counts of first degree sodomy by Circuit Judge Mark Richardson in Butler County.
Eaker was initially charged with first degree assault on May 7, 2006, after a 7-year-old male was hospitalized for a fractured pancreas. This child told Scott County Deputy Greg Ourth that Eaker got mad at him and hit him "as hard as you could hit anybody." The investigation revealed that the child was struck in the stomach and head area a number of times. The injury resulted in an extensive stay in the hospital to recover from his injuries.
Doctors determined that the injuries were caused by physical abuse. At the time of the injuries, the child's mother was at work and Eaker was watching the children. The boy's 5-year-old sister was at home at the time of the injury.
In late June 2006, a forensic interview was attempted with the 7-year-old male about what had happened to him. The child was too traumatized to talk with a child interviewer. This event of physical abuse also left the child mortified for a number of months where he would speak about his abuse. At the same interview, the little sister told a child interviewer the story Eaker told her to tell: that her brother had "fallen off a log."
Due to the abuse and the mother's failure to protect the children by allowing Eaker to be present at the hospital, the children were placed in a foster home and received counseling for abuse they had received or witnessed.
The male child was unable to face Eaker in the court room at Eaker's initial preliminary hearing. The case was dismissed.
In fall 2006, however, Eaker was again indicted for first degree assault for the injuries to the male child -- this time by a Scott County Grand Jury.
In May 2007, both children were taken back to the Network Against Sexual Violence in Cape Girardeau for a forensic interview. During these interviews, both children were able to relate what caused the male child's injuries. It was also revealed that Eaker had been subjecting them to acts of sodomy. Based on these interviews, the Grand Jury indicted Eaker on both physical and sexual abuse charges in 2007.
"The way Eaker was controlling the children by acts of physical aggression and threats aided his acts of sodomy as he was grooming the children for further sexual acts," said Scott County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Boyd. "Pedophiles of small children will start with small acts of sex or sex games then move to bigger ones as the children accommodate their abuser's actions not knowing what else to do. Most children do not have the inner strength or the luxury of adult experience to know how to make the abuse stop. And sex offenders know this and pick their victims accordingly."
Eaker pled guilty to one count of first degree assault for hitting the male child and one count of sodomy for each of the children.
"Because Eaker pled guilty, the children will not have to live through their nightmare in public," Boyd said. "His plea also provides a sense of closure for the children so that they can move on with their lives knowing that he is locked up."
Boyd said Eaker must serve 85 percent of his 15-year sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
"This is a case that is indicative of the professional actions of the law enforcement multi-disciplinary team approach to solving child sex and child abuse cases," Boyd added. "In this case, the doctors, nurses and patient counselor at Cardinal Glennon Hospital, Deputy Greg Ourth, Jana Wyman of Division of Child Services, NASV forensic interviewer Kathy Blevins and prosecutors all have to work together to get a sex offender off the streets."
The multi-disciplinary team is a collaboration of professionals who partner as experts in their respective fields to investigate and determine if a case involving the alleged physical or sexual abuse of a child should be prosecuted. It is the strength of the individual team member's experience that makes the team as a whole operate in the child's best interest.
NASV, which serves nine counties in Southeast Missouri, is the only center in Missouri that has both forensic interviews and forensic medical examinations conducted in the same facility.