Former petting zoo employee pleads guilty to sexual abuse charges involving minors

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LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Ala. – WHNT News 19 has been following a developing story out of Lauderdale County for much of the day on Tuesday. A former petting zoo employee accused of inappropriately touching half a dozen small girls pleaded guilty.

What was docketed as a motions hearing to prepare for his trial next week, turned into a plea agreement for Daryl Raymond. He has been in custody since his arrest in late April of 2016. That’s when one child got off of a pony ride at the Jungle Safari traveling petting zoo and told her grandmother the attendant inappropriately touched her.

As Florence police were investigating the allegation, five more victims came forward.

District Attorney Chris Connolly said they were ready to move forward with trial next week. But with Raymond pleading guilty Tuesday morning, it will keep the small children from having to testify.

“We have been wrestling with that for a long time in this case. Because those children are all sweet little girls and your heart just goes out to them. So, you know there’s a lot of discussion with the families as to what is best for them,” explained Connolly.

According to the agreement, Raymond pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12. As a sentence, Raymond will serve four years in prison and must register as a sex offender.

But his legal troubles may not be over.

“We just discovered some records from Maine that we are looking into to determine the status of those. So we have been in touch with the Maine officials today,” said Connolly.

On March 7th, Daryl Raymond will be back at the Lauderdale County Courthouse to be formally sentenced on the plea agreement.

The families of the victims have also filed civil lawsuits in Lauderdale County naming Jungle Safari, Daryl Raymond, and the shopping mall where Jungle Safari was set-up as defendants. Those suits are still pending.