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May 22, 2013

Strong message

Sexual predator handed four life sentences by county jury

ATHENS — A Henderson County jury delivered a strong message to a 37-year-old Kemp man in the sentencing phase of a child sexual-abuse trial on Tuesday.

The jury, in Judge Mark Calhoon’s 3rd District Court, handed Danny Ray Lusk four life sentences and one 20-year sentence, the maximum jail time on each count.

The panel convicted Lusk Monday evening for four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, and one count of indecency with a child by contact.

Lusk was arrested in April of 2011 for the aggravated sexual assaults of two family members under the age of 14.

Monte Mansfield of the Gun Barrel City Police investigated the case, along with assistance from the Tool Police Department, Child Protective Services, Children’s Advocacy Center and the Henderson County District Attorney’s Office. 

Evidence presented by 1st Assistant District Attorney Mark Hall and Assistant District Attorney Nancy Rumar during the week-and-a-half-long trial revealed that Lusk began assaulting the two victims when they were 3 and 4 years old.  Both victims testified that Lusk assaulted them for years before they finally came forward to other family members. 

During the punishment phase of the trial, Lusk, against his attorney’s advice, took the stand in his own defense. Lusk denied any wrongdoing, and blamed the allegations on his ex-wives and the victims. Under  cross-examination by Rumar, Lusk continued to deny the allegations, as Rumar pointed out the improbability of his conspiracy theory. 

Rumar also questioned Lusk about his third wife, whom he married after his arrest. Rumar pointed out that his new wife had three daughters of her own, two under the age of 15.  Lusk admitted to Rumar that one of those daughters moved out of the house after he moved in, because he made her “feel creepy.”

During closing arguments to the jury, Hall summarized the evidence, and said although Lusk would have been eligible for probation on all but one of the cases, this case warranted time in the penitentiary. 

Hall also walked the jury through Lusk’s relationships, and his access to young girls over a period of years. 

Rumar followed Hall’s arguments by asking the jury for a long sentence. Rumar told the jury that the victims would live with the aftermath of this abuse for life. 

“While we are aware that a jury’s job can be extremely difficult and gut-wrenching at times, the folks that served on this one really stepped up to the plate in terms of assessing an appropriate sentence for this defendant,” Hall said.  “But by their verdict, they also put on notice those offenders whose cases may not have yet been tried or even come to light, that the people of Henderson County are not going to sit idly by, and not protect its children from this type of abuse.”

District Attorney Scott McKee said he wanted other sex offenders, or those who might do so in the future, to just be aware that little children won’t be kids forever. 

“Someday those kids are going to look back, and see that what was done to them was wrong, and have the courage to speak up about it, just like our victims here,” McKee said. “And when they do, we’ll be here to seek justice on their behalf.”

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