Ralph Eugene Harbit, age 62, of Mexico, Mo., was found guilty of Rape and Child Molestation after a jury trial in Audrain County on Monday.
The seven woman, five man jury returned a guilty verdict after approximately 25 minutes of deliberations at the Courthouse in Mexico.
The rape and molestation of the girl, who was 8-10 years old at the time, occurred in 2007-2009 in Mexico.
Harbit, who will be sentenced by Circuit Judge Wesley C. Dalton on October 20, faces a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum term of more 45 years imprisonment. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Scott Fox and Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger, both of Audrain County, tried the case on August 14.
“Ralph Harbit’s reign of terror through a family that loved and trusted him has caused great damage,” Shellabarger said in a press release. “Harbit took absolutely no responsibility and showed no remorse in raping and molesting a little girl, and used his position to abuse and harm her family to keep this girl silent. He divided a family and put a young girl in a position where she felt her whole world depended on keeping silent about what Ralph Harbit did to her. Most of us can’t imagine the kind of mental and physical pain and pressure that places on a child, and how damaging it can be. Ralph Harbit used a tool many abusers use: he showered this girl with praise, lavish gifts, and what he called love. She didn’t know what happened was wrong – he sexually abused her and controlled her family’s reactions through fear, intimidation and physical abuse. She held these secrets for years, and when a friend teased her about having been “the favorite one” – she broke down and told how Ralph abused her and tried to keep her silent. It’s heartbreaking.”
Shellabarger went on to say “because of a jury’s verdict, this young woman can grow and heal having told the truth about what Ralph did to her without carrying the crushing burden of secrets and shame Ralph forced on her.”
Shellabarger also made special remarks regarding the message sent by the jury.
“This jury delivered a firm, powerful message that when children are hurt in our community, even though years have passed, that our community will hold the guilty accountable, protect the innocent and ensure a fair trial,” he noted. “This case was difficult for jurors to listen to in that it was evidence of sexual abuse to a young child, but I commend them for the focus, attention and resolve in seeing the case through to a just guilty verdict. Justice has come for that little girl.”
Shellabarger also thanked publicly the Mid-Mo Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) for their “steady and long-lasting support for the family involved in this case.
“BACA is the embodiment of solid rock of support for families living through this crime, and live their motto that ‘No Child Should Live in Fear.’ They have been shoulders to cry on, warm hugs of support and a hard line against abusive behavior, and have shared laughs and love freely when needed. I also want to acknowledge the investigation done by the Mexico Public Safety Department, who invested countless hours to making sure justice was done for this child and that she did not go into the courtroom alone, but surrounded by solid evidence and support.”