A Soddy-Daisy man convicted of child molestation was given a 20-year sentence, with the first 15 years to be served in prison, by Catoosa County Superior Court Judge Don Thompson following a three-day trial that ended last week.
Japheth Long, 28, was charged with child molestation for an incident in October 2019 at the Econo Lodge hotel in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.
Long, who had no prior felony convictions, was staying there with the 4-year-old victim's mother, according to a news release from Lookout Moutain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Chris Arnt. The victim's mother was in the bathroom when the crime occurred, and evidence presented at trial suggested both Long and the victim's mother had previously been using methamphetamine in the room, the release said.
The next day, the child told her mother about the abuse and again recounted the molestation during a recorded interview at the Children's Advocacy Center, the release stated.
In addition to testimony involving the molestation of the 4-year-old victim in the Fort Oglethorpe case, another minor testified during the trial that Long, who was friends with her older brother, raped her in 2016 when she was 12 years old, in her California home, the news release stated. A California case against Long is still pending.
After a short deliberation, the jury found Long guilty of child molestation.
Arnt commended the effort of Assistant District Attorney David Wolfe for his "diligent and dedicated work" to seek justice for the young girl in the case and to ensure Long would be held accountable for his actions. Arnt also noted the work of the victim-witness team that worked with the girl and her family before and during the trial.
"Our office will always prioritize the prosecution of those who harm our most vulnerable citizens and especially our children," Arnt said. He also thanked the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department and the Children's Advocacy Center.
The case was investigated by Lt. Gregg Cross of the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.