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Karl enters pleas in child molestation case

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By John Barnhart

    Faced with three charges of aggravated sexual battery against three girls, Douglas Earl Karl Jr, 31, of Amherst, chose to make Alford pleas in Bedford County Circuit Court, Tuesday.
    An Alford plea is when a defendant, while maintaining his innocence, pleads guilty due to the evidence the prosecution has against him. He will serve 18 months in prison as a result of the plea agreement.
    “I plead guilty as it’s in my best interest,” said Karl to the charges.
    The incidents happened from 2004 to 2008 and the oldest of the girls was 9 years old at the time. According to the charges, Karl inappropriately touched the girls and had them perform oral sex on him.
    Chief Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Ayers said that the girls were two sisters and the daughter of a family friend. An investigation was done in 2004 when the daughter of the family friend told her parents right after the incident involving her occurred. A police investigation was done and, at that time, the oldest of the two sisters, who was 6 at the time, denied that anything was happening. Ayers said no charges were filed because law enforcement felt they didn’t have enough evidence to bring charges.
    According to Ayers, the incidents involving the sisters continued and the older girl began to suspect that the same incidents were happening to her sister, although she hadn’t witnessed that.
    The sexual battery came to law enforcement’s attention again in 2011. Ayers said that the older sister had accepted a ride home from a church activity from an 18-year-old boy. The mother chided her daughter for doing this, warning her about the situations the girl could get herself into.
    The girl replied that she had already been in such situations, and related what Karl did to her. The mother called police and the older sister told them about the incidents and her suspicions about what Karl had done to the younger sister. When police talked to the younger sister, she broke down, started crying, and told police what Karl had done. Ayers said that police then got in touch with the daughter of the family friend, who maintained her testimony about what had happened in 2004.
    Karl’s Alford pleas were part of a plea deal. Ayers said the victims, and their mother, agreed to the deal as it avoided putting the girls on the witness stand in a trial. She said the younger sister is still particularly traumatized by what happened to her.
    The older sister read a victim impact statement to the court, Tuesday.
    “He put the fear into me that I had never experienced,” she said.
    Now in her teens, the girl said she is currently in counseling because of what happened and still worries about running into somebody like Karl. She also feels that what happened to her stigmatizes her.
    “When people find out about what happened, they treat you different,” she said.
    The girls’ mother also read a victim impact statement.
    “We can never give them back the childhood he stole from them,” she said.
    Judge James Updike sentenced Karl according to the terms of the plea agreement reached between Karl and the Commonwealth. Karl was sentenced to 10 years in prison on each count, the sentences to be served concurrently. The sentences will be suspended after Karl serves 18 months, counting the time he has already been incarcerated. After his release he will be on five years probation and must register as a sex offender. Sex offender registration generally bans a person from contact with juveniles, but Karl’s family members will be allowed to file a letter with Karl’s probation officer authorizing Karl to have contact with their juvenile children.