GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A Marshall County man faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is convicted of the rape and sexual abuse of a 4-year-old child.
Guntersville detectives arrested 24-year-old Justin Allen Soper this weekend and county prosecutors charged him with rape and sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12.
“Something that none of us can fathom or imagine,” district attorney Steve Marshall said.
“In this case the defendant is looking at punishment of life without the possibility of parole.
“That was a decision made by the legislature [in 2011] that I wholeheartedly endorse, that anybody that would rape a child under the age of six never needs to be out in society again,” the district attorney said about a revision to the sex offense punishment laws.
Prosecutors said police made the decision to go ahead and charge Soper with just one count each of rape and abuse, in order to make an arrest and hold him with a substantial bond, which Judge Mitch Floyd set at $2 million. Marshall said the investigation is ongoing and there may be additional charges filed against the defendant.
“Usually a predator of this type just doesn’t have one event or one victim,” Marshall said.
“Having said that, at this point we don’t have any information that there’s anybody else, but we’ll continue to work with this child partly in the nature of their emotional recovery.”
Marshall said while he can’t imagine what the child is going through and will have to understand as time goes on, the child is receiving counseling and doing “great.”
“One of the things that we’re blessed with in North Alabama as a whole, is our child advocacy centers who are designed specifically to deal with these problems. Men and women who are trained to counsel these children, to interview these children,” he said.
“[They] provide not only services to that child, but a forensic element for us in court to be able to come to a jury and explain the words of a child and what those mean and how those demonstrate that somebody has been a victim of a sexual assault.”
Investigators said the interviews are ongoing, and Alabama laws allow for specially trained law enforcement officers or counselors to testify on behalf of a child under the age of 12.
That decision will be made closer to trial, but Marshall said his office will try avoid putting the four-year-old through the trauma of taking the stand in a courtroom.
“This case is more than simply about the words of a child. There’s substantive and cooperative evidence that we will be able to use, along with that forensic interview, we believe to establish the guilt of the defendant,” Marshall said. “The evidence that law enforcement has developed in this case has been thorough. They’ve done a good job “