As soon as James Houston's victim got away from the man who molested her, she told a friend what happened.
That June 2007 disclosure put Houston, 24, of Lee County behind bars a few days later and in front of a jury last week. At 6:30 p.m. Friday, those jurors found Houston guilty of aggravated child molestation and two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes, netting him a 35-year prison sentence and the rest of his life on probation.
"Given the nature of his crime, I feel the sentence is fair," said Assistant District Attorney Shelly Faulk, who assisted Assistant District Attorney Wesley Lambertus in Houston's prosecution. "Mr. Lambertus was very firm that he needed to spend a lengthy time in prison."
Houston initially faced four counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes and one count each of aggravated assault and aggravated sexual battery. The jury found him not guilty of all charges except a count of aggravated sexual battery and the enticing charges.
Jurors heard during the three-day trial that Houston had taken the then 8-year-old girl to Lee County June 1, 2007, to look at some puppies. On the way back to Columbus, they stopped at Oliver Dam and he touched her inappropriately, Faulk said.
Afterward, Houston dropped his victim off and she immediately told her grandmother, the prosecutor said. The grandmother then contacted police, and Houston was arrested about five days later.
Defense attorneys Shevon Sutcliffe Thomas and Christopher Clay couldn't be reached for comment.