A Joplin man pleaded guilty Wednesday to physical abuse of a 6-year-old boy and was released from jail with credit for time served under terms of a plea deal dismissing charges that he also sexually abused a 9-year-old girl.

William T. Yates, 36, had been scheduled to go to trial in July on felony counts of child abuse, first-degree statutory rape and statutory sodomy with a child younger than 12 years old.

All three counts were filed on the defendant in 2020 after investigations by Joplin police and case workers with the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services.

One probable-cause affidavit filed with the court states that Yates got mad at the boy July 21, 2019, regarding control of a video game device and smacked the child’s face with an open hand, splitting his lip.

A second affidavit alleged that he sexually abused a 9-year-old girl about two weeks later at a residence in central Joplin. That allegation did not surface until April 2020 when the girl’s mother contacted police about disclosures her daughter had made regarding Yates, who had been the mother’s roommate.

During an interview at the Children’s Center in Joplin, the girl purportedly disclosed that Yates had raped her. A sibling of the girl was interviewed and allegedly reported having witnessed Yates forcing an act of sodomy on the girl, according to the affidavit.

Yates pleaded guilty to the abuse count involving the boy in a plea deal dismissing the charges pertaining to the girl and calling for a 15-month sentence with credit for having already served that amount of time in jail.

Circuit Judge David Mouton accepted the plea agreement, assessed Yates the agreed-upon length of sentence and ordered him released from jail with credit for time already served. The judge further ordered that Yates have no contact with the victim in the case or the victim’s family.

Trending Video

Jeff Lehr is an award-winning reporter for The Joplin Globe who covers the courts and crime beat. He can be reached at jlehr@joplinglobe.com.