To hear prosecutor Letitia Sikes tell it, Mark Levon Reynolds has himself to blame for what he did to his young victims, but testimony in his rape trial showed he has other adults to thank for getting away with it for so long.
A Muscogee County jury this week convicted Reynolds of rape and aggravated sexual battery for a May 3, 2011, incident in which he assaulted a 19-year-old woman who fell asleep after he gave her alcohol, Sikes said.
The victim told police she was awakened about 3 a.m. by Reynolds' groping her, and she froze, not knowing what to do. Reynolds went on to rape her, leaving evidence that later matched his DNA profile in laboratory tests, police said.
Testimony showed that this was not the first time he assaulted the woman. He had forced sex on her first when she was in the fifth grade, and abused her again two or three years later, Sikes said.
The first time the girl told on him, her mother didn't believe her, Sikes said. The next time, the then-teenager reported the assault to authorities, but her family persuaded her to recant her statements to investigators, and a grand jury later declined to indict Reynolds, the prosecutor said.
Over a two-year period around that same time, Reynolds regularly molested a 12-year-old girl whom he knew, Sikes said.
That girl reported the abuse both to her parents and to school officials, but no one believed her, Sikes said.
The former 12-year-old now is 21, and testified about the abuse during Reynolds' trial, the prosecutor said.
On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Gil McBride sentenced Reynolds, 51, to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
Sikes, an assistant district attorney, said the case shows how adult skepticism and negligence can allow a sexual predator to abuse more than one victim more than once over a period of years.
"When a child tells you something, you need to take it seriously," she said.