NEOSHO, Mo. —A Newton County judge assessed a Seneca man 13 years in prison Monday on a conviction for the rape of a girl.

Justin L. Rutherford, 31, pleaded guilty in Newton County Circuit Court to first-degree statutory rape in a plea deal dismissing a related count of statutory sodomy and calling for a 13-year stint behind bars.

Judge Gregory Stremel accepted the plea bargain and sentenced Rutherford to the agreed-upon length of term.

The defendant was charged with the statutory offenses in November 2019 after an investigation by the Newton County Sheriff's Department and the Missouri Department of Social Services of disclosures made by the victim during an interview at the Children's Center in Joplin.

The girl told investigators that Rutherford sexually abused her on more than one occasion when she was 8 and 9 years old.

A probable-cause affidavit filed in the case states that Rutherford admitted to investigators that he had sexually abused her about five times, with two of the incidents taking place in Jasper County and the others in Newton County.

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