LAURINBURG — At the conclusion of a week-long trial, 29-year-old Dawayne Knolton was convicted Tuesday on seven counts of child molestation in Scotland County Superior Court.
Knolton was initially charged in 2013 by the Laurinburg Police Department. He faced 14 counts of sexual offense with a child — on half of which the 12-member jury found him guilty.
He will face an effective sentence of life imprisonment, with 101 to 134 years active sentence imposed by Judge Michael Beales.
Evidence presented by the state in Knolton’s trial, which began on Dec. 7, included testimony from the victim, social services personnel, a Scotland Memorial Hospital nurse, and sheriff’s deputies to whom the victim identified Knolton as her abuser.
The victim’s testimony described more than 14 instances of sexual abuse spanning the period from October 2009 to August 2012, when the victim was under the age of 10. The abuse was described as occurring in various locations: a playground tunnel at Washington Park, the Market Park staging area, the homes of the victim’s grandparents, Laurinburg motels, and the homes of several of Knolton’s girlfriends.
“It’s in the depth of the details that you should believe what she told you,” Assistant District Attorney Joanna Shober told the jury in her closing argument. “It is impossible to believe that with all those details this child was manipulated into saying what she said to you in court.”
Other evidence in the case included the victim’s school records, positive chlamydia tests from samples taken from both Knolton and the victim in September and October 2012, and testimony from one of Knolton’s former girlfriends, who lived with him and testified to finding blood on the victim’s underclothes.
Knolton’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Leonard King, characterized the victim’s testimony as fabrication due to coaching from her mother.
“This case stinks of manipulation, right from the very first story,” he said.
King pointed out that the victim’s initial accounts to law enforcement differed from her testimony in court last week, and that many details of specific incidents of abuse were not shared with investigators. King also cast aspersions on the STD test, which he said could have returned false positives, and took issue with an extra urine sample that was taken but not used to perform another set of tests.
“You can find that not only has the state not ruled out every reasonable doubt, they have refused to rule out every reasonable doubt,” King said.
The jury returned its verdict on Tuesday after more than two hours of deliberation and additional review of photos and school records presented as evidence. Knolton was found guilty of charges related to incidents that took place in late 2009 and in the spring and summer of 2012.
Beales set forth a series of consolidated sentences beginning with a sentence of between 420 and 530 months. A pair of 400 to 540 month sentences will begin at the expiration of the initial sentence.
Knolton will receive credit for the three years he has spent in jail awaiting trial.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.