By Jeff Lehr
A 59-year-old man was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of a developmentally disabled 8-year-old girl in Joplin.
Robert L. Newton pleaded guilty in Jasper County Circuit Court to first-degree statutory rape, first-degree statutory sodomy and felony failure to appear in court in a plea agreement with the prosecutor’s office.
The sex-offense convictions involve acts committed with the girl three years ago. Newton picked up the third felony count when he failed to show up for his trial on June 12 of last year.
The defendant’s plea deal limited the prison time that he might receive to 15 years on each of the statutory counts and to two years on the count for failure to appear. The agreement also called for the terms to run concurrently.
Circuit Judge David Dally accepted the plea bargain and assessed Newton the three concurrent terms.
Newton, who is from Las Cruces, N.M., was visiting Joplin when the sexual contact took place in 2010.
The abuse came to light in December of that year just before the girl’s mother planned to leave town on a trip out of state. According to the mother’s testimony at a preliminary hearing, the girl asked her if Newton would do what he did to her previously. The mother asked what she meant, and authorities were notified.
When Newton was interviewed by police, he reportedly acknowledged waking up one night and finding himself naked and on top of the girl. He claimed that he immediately got off her, put a towel across himself and apologized. During an interview at the Children’s Center in Joplin, however, the girl disclosed that he had raped her, according to a probable-cause affidavit.