A Catawba County jury convicted Jonathan Ray Lail of multiple sexual offenses on Tuesday, November 1, 2022, bringing a trial of seven days to a close in Catawba County Superior Court.
Lail, 35, of Newton, was given an active prison sentence of 66 to 95 years after he was found guilty of statutory rape of a child by an adult, statutory rape of a child younger than 15, two counts of indecent liberties with a child, incest with a child under the age of 13 and incest with a child 13 years of age by the 12-member jury panel.
The Honorable Karen Eady-Williams, Superior Court Judge from Mecklenburg County, handed down the sentence for Lail following his conviction by the jury after approximately 90 minutes of deliberation.
The defendant will serve his period of incarceration in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections.
The now 16-year-old victim addressed Lail prior to sentencing, saying, “You didn’t break me. You pushed me, you pushed me and pushed me again, but you didn’t break me.”
Judge Eady-Williams noted that the defendant took away the victim’s innocence and caused her to live in fear.
“This case has created heavy hearts to many in this courtroom,” Judge Eady-Williams said as she addressed the defendant. “You had an opportunity, and you blew it in a major way … You put her in harm’s way. You were the threat.”
The trial started Monday, October 24 and included two days of jury selection along with evidence presentation by the State and defense. The victim and defendant both took the stand to provide testimony during the trial. Following closing arguments by both sides on Tuesday, November 1, the case went to the jury for deliberation before coming to its end with the guilty verdicts.
“Our victim in this case was incredibly strong and brave,” Prosecutor Jessica Phillips said. “I’m happy that I can be a voice for our victims and seek justice for them.”
The incidents of molestation occurred during a period from late 2016 into 2020.
The victim disclosed to investigators with the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office that the sexual abuse started when she was 9 years old and living in Texas. It continued when she moved to Conover and Newton until she was 13 years old.
A medical examination and forensic interview by the Children’s Advocacy and Protection Center of Catawba County (CAPC) corroborated the allegations against the defendant made by the victim when she was 13 years old.
The case was investigated by Darren Yang of the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the Children’s Advocacy and Protection Center of Catawba County. Assistant District Attorney Jessica Phillips handled prosecution for the State.
“This outcome demonstrates the vital work of our investigative team and our CAPC partnering together to protect children here in Catawba County,” Catawba County Sheriff Don Brown said. “I commend the bravery of the victim for facing her abuser, the excellent work of our District Attorney’s Office and the wisdom offered by Judge Eady-Williams during sentencing. Justice has been served today.”
CAPC Executive Director Adrienne Opdyke added, “I am so grateful for the group of professionals we have in Catawba County that support child victims of sexual abuse from the time they report until resolution.”