Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger announces that Ralph Eugene Harbit, age 62, of Mexico, Mo., was sentenced to a total of 45 years confinement for Statutory Rape and Child Molestation after an August 15 jury trial in Audrain County. The seven woman, five-man jury returned a guilty verdict after approximately 25 minutes of deliberations at the Court House in Mexico. The rape and molestation of the girl, who was 8-10 years old at the time, occurred in 2007 through 2009 in Mexico. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Scott Fox and Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger tried the case August 14.
“This sentence is the maximum possible for the damage Ralph Harbit did,” Shellabarger said in a press release. “It’s appropriate and warranted for a man who had zero remorse and no insight into how his actions affected this family. Ralph Harbit’s years of abuse and terror through a family that trusted him has caused great damage, even lasting until today in psychological harm. 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 & 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. This brave young woman told the truth about what happened to her, and our community validated, supported and believed her. 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. 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. 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. I wanted to thank the Mid-Mo Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) who was a steady and long-lasting support for the family involved in this case,” Shellabarger said. “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.”