Crime

Columbus man who dragged boy off street to assault him has similar prior offense, police say

A Columbus man accused of dragging a 12-year-old boy off the street to the rear of a vacant building and trying to sodomize him has a previous conviction for a strikingly similar offense, a detective testified Wednesday in Recorder’s Court.

Cantrell Denolovone Clark, 44, faces charges of kidnapping, attempted child molestation and attempted aggravated sodomy in the incident reported July 29 in the midtown area, where the boy told police he was riding his bike on his home street when the bicycle’s chain malfunctioned.

The 12-year-old’s attention was diverted as he stopped and tried to fix the chain, so he didn’t see the shirtless man coming toward him, police Cpl. Mark Scruggs testified.

The boy was grabbed and dragged from the street to the rear of a vacant apartment building, where the man crudely told him he wanted to perform oral sex on the child, Scruggs said.

The boy began to fight and scream, breaking free and running back to the street, where he got neighbors’ attention, Scruggs said. The man got away.

The boy’s family reported the assault about 11 p.m., the detective said.

On Sunday, police were called back to the area where the boy reported he’d seen and heard the man who assaulted him hanging out in a yard with other men. He pointed out Clark, and patrol officers then questioned the suspect and forwarded the information they collected to Scruggs.

On Monday, Scruggs checked Clark’s background, and saw he was accused of child molestation and aggravated sodomy in Columbus in 1996, and convicted in 1998, the corporal said, adding the previous offense and Clark’s current accusations were remarkably similar. He did not specify how the two cases were alike.

Scruggs then had Clark arrested, based on the child’s having identified him as the assailant.

Though an uncle testified Clark was with him the night of July 29, Judge Julius Hunter found probable cause to send the case on to Muscogee Superior Court.

Clark now is being held without bond in the county jail.

Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.
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