The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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September 13, 2012

Three women accuse Joplin man of sexual assault

JOPLIN, Mo. — Three young women testified Thursday that Jacob T. Blackburn sexually assaulted them, with two recounting rapes that took place four years ago in parking lots at Joplin High School and a Wal-Mart store.

Blackburn, 21, appeared with his attorney at a preliminary hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court in Joplin. At the conclusion of the hearing, Associate Circuit Judge Richard Copeland ordered Blackburn bound over for trial on two counts of forcible rape and one count of forcible sodomy.

“I just kept telling him to stop, and he wouldn’t stop,” said the woman who testified that Blackburn raped her in April 2008 when they were both students at Joplin High School.

She said the defendant was a friend of one of her friends, and she had sneaked outside with him to his car between classes to smoke a cigarette. It surprised her at first when he leaned over and started kissing her. The next thing she knew he had put her seat back and was on top of her and pulling her clothes off, she said. She tried to open the car door but couldn’t.

“I tried hitting him,” she said. “It didn’t work.”

Afterward, she pulled her clothes on and ran back inside the school. She told her best friend what happened when she ran into her in the hallway. Her friend told another friend, who eventually told school officials, and Joplin police were contacted.

She said she gave a statement to an officer and spoke with a woman at the Children’s Center. She was uncertain if the conversation at the center was videotaped. But nothing ever came of the matter until the prosecutor’s office contacted her recently, she said.

A woman who testified that Blackburn raped her seven months later, in November 2008, said she also reported the assault to police, but no charge was filed until recently.

“The officer who took my report said it was his word against mine since I was 18,” she said.

She was in college at the time and had known Blackburn for a couple of months. He had sent a text message asking if she would meet him at the Wal-Mart store on West Seventh Street, and she had agreed. Later, when they left the store, he talked her into sitting in his pickup truck with him.

She recounted a similar assault that took place inside the defendant’s truck.

The third woman to take the witness stand at the hearing said Blackburn assaulted her at his residence in November of last year. She had gone there to hang out with him but had tried to make it clear to him beforehand that she did not want a relationship with him and did not want “anything intimate” with him.

She said his parents and a grandparent were at the house when she got there, and they watched a football game together. Later, she went back to his room to watch a movie, and he began coming on to her, she told the court.

“He said he was aroused and it was my job to take care of that, and I said it wasn’t,” she said.

He forced himself on her anyway, sexually assaulting her with his hand, she said. She testified that it was “like an out-of-body experience” during which she felt numb and unable to move.

Asked by Blackburn’s attorney, Ross Rhoades, why she never screamed to catch the attention of his parents or grandparent, who might have come and intervened on her behalf, she said she did not feel like she could.

Jeremy Crowley, assistant prosecutor, said after the hearing that the two rape reports from 2008 were not referred to the prosecutor’s office for charges until after the third victim came forward last year. He said the detective assigned to that case brought the two older cases to the attention of the prosecutor’s office, and the victims were recontacted.

2008 cases

Lt. Brian Lewis of the Joplin Police Department said two incidents involving Jacob Blackburn and female victims were reported to police in 2008, with an incident at Joplin High School reported a week after it had taken place. Globe efforts to obtain an explanation as to why the cases were not being prosecuted until now were unsuccessful Thursday.

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