Convicted child predator Curtis White was sentenced to 38 years in prison Thursday morning.
After a three-day trial in Yazoo County Circuit Court, it took the jury a little over an hour to find White guilty of statutory rape and two counts of gratification of lust.
Tears were shed by some of White’s family members as Judge Jannie Lewis delivered his sentencing. Meanwhile, the family and friends of White’s two underage female victims released sighs of relief mixed with tears.
“It’s over,” whispered a few in the crowd as White was led away in handcuffs.
The trial has been a roller coaster of emotions filled with testimonies that portrayed White as a “father figure,” while also revealing a more sinister side filled with rape and abuse.
District Attorney Akillie Malone-Oliver and Assistant District Attorney Tina Herron sought for the maximum penalties for White, who they labeled as “pedophile” and “child predator,” preying on children who loved and trusted him. Based on their research and court testimonies, White’s history of sexual abuse covers several years, with one victim being assaulted for three years, beginning when she was 11 years old.
“This is an emotional case because it involves the continuous rape of a child who was 11 years old, 12 years old, and 13 years old by someone she knew, loved and trusted,” said Malone-Oliver. “This case has destroyed a family, not because of what a child did...but by what that man did.”
The two female children came forward to tell local authorities what had been happening several months ago after youth retreat. After listening to the testimony of a sexual abuse victim, local church leaders noticed one of the victims becoming very emotional during the speaker’s testimony.
“She was weeping,” Malone-Oliver said. “It was like she was at war with something.”
The victim later revealed that White had been sexually abusing her, so many times that “she had lost count.”
Her abuse from White would later become “a routine thing, two to three times a week.”
Emotional reactions from the victim’s family were visible after hearing that the abuse became “almost normal” for the young girl.
It wasn’t very long after the first victim came forward that a second female child also revealed that White had fondled her.
Through the investigation and later revealed in the trial, White’s abuse was centered around victims whose families were very close with his own.
“Children loved him,” Malone-Oliver said. “Parents trusted him. But he was a wolf in the hen house. Curtis White had the perfect set-up.”
From horse rides to lake-side activities, White was a strong presence in the victims’ lives. The families said they never suspected that he was sexually abusing the children behind their backs.
But White’s attorney Joe Hollomon said he believes the conflicting times and recollections of his witnesses show that the victims were “not truthful.”
“I am going to ask you to look at the evidence,” he said to the jury during his closing statement. “You have to decide on evidence. It didn’t happen the way she (the victim) said it happened. How true is everything else she says?”
A third female victim also testified in court about a sexual relationship between she and White. Now an adult, the female was 15 years old at the time of the relationship. White was 24 years old and married at the time.
White admitted to the sexual relationship with the minor.
“I regret it every day of my life,” White said, on the stand Wednesday afternoon. “But that was a long time ago. I was young and dumb.”
But Malone-Oliver said White’s admittance to the sexual relationship with the then-minor shows a pattern.
“That is the pattern of this pretend good guy,” Malone-Oliver said. “He got on the stand and admitted to this. He admitted to having sex with a 15-year-old girl at the time.”
Hollomon said it was a “mistake” on White’s part.
“He is not a perfect man,” Hollomon said. “He dearly regrets that at 24 years old...”
Hollomon urged the jury to find White not guilty.
“There has been a lot of rhetoric,” he said. “It’s not proof. The only proof is that it didn’t happen the way (the victims) claimed it happened. Curtis White is not guilty of these charges.”
Returning to court Thursday morning, it took the jury about 65 minutes to unanimously reach a guilty verdict on statory rape and two counts of gratification of lust.
White remained silent as deputies led him away to be taken to the Yazoo County Jail.
“This child has been devastated by the things this man has done to her,” Malone-Oliver said. “It takes courage to do what she did. She told the truth.”