Independence County jury convicts man on multiple counts of child rape; sentenced to 150 years in prison


An Independence County jury convicted Donald James (pictured), 52, of Jackson County, on five counts of rape of a child under age 14, and sentenced him to a total of 150 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections, according to a release from the Arkansas 16th Judicial District.

Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Judge Tim Weaver ruled that the separate sentences for each of the five charges, all Class Y felonies, should run consecutively, meaning that James will serve 150 years on all charges.

The three-day trial was held in Independence County Circuit Court in Batesville, beginning on Nov. 6 and concluding in the late afternoon on Nov. 8.  The jury deliberated for about two hours before reaching a verdict. The defendant declined to testify in his own defense.

The case was presented by Prosecuting Attorney Eric Hance and Deputy Prosecutor Kellye Barber. The Independence County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case with Detective Sgt. Zach Rawlins leading the investigation.

The multiple assaults occurred in 2014 and 2015 at the James home in Oil Trough in Independence County. The child victim, now 15, was 9 years old at the time the assaults began. The child revealed the abuse in 2018 when she disclosed the rapes to a school teacher, the release said.

According to witness testimony, James was a stay-at-home-dad, who often cared for other children in his home, both family members and others. Witnesses for the prosecution included the child victim, who provided graphic descriptions of the abuse, and another minor female child, who disclosed that James had assaulted her as well. Family members, both younger and older than the victim, who testified for the prosecution, said “Uncle DJ” made them feel uncomfortable and described incidents of inappropriate touching and exposure of his genitalia, the press release stated.

Other family members testified in defense of James, saying that nothing inappropriate ever happened. All said that both of the James homes in Independence County, and later in Jackson County, were places where cook-outs and swim parties were popular with adults and children, the release noted.

Prosecutor Hance stated, “We are very grateful to the jury that listened carefully to three days of difficult testimony to reach a just result for this victim and others injured by Donald James.”

Image via Independence County Sheriff’s Department

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