Crime

Independence couple charged in lifelong rape of 14-year-old girl with autism

Child sexual abuse statistics in the United States

One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
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One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

A police report detailing how Steven Nelson allegedly repeatedly raped a 14-year-old girl with autism, while his partner, Paula Stark, allegedly knew about it and said nothing is as disturbing as any.

The facts of the case came to light on April 12, when the girl, able to speak only in fragments, told her teacher at George Caleb Bingham Middle School that her “bottom hurt.” Handed dolls to help her explain what she meant, the child lay one doll atop the other in a sexual position and said one was her and the other was Nelson.

Police arrested Nelson, 42, and Stark, 47.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker on Thursday charged the couple with multiple felony counts. Nelson, of Independence, was charged with five counts that included two for statutory rape in the 1st degree, and two counts of statutory sodomy.

Stark was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the 1st degree.

The police report notes that Nelson, when interviewed, admitted to police that he had been having sex with the girl multiple times each week for the last couple of years, but had been also doing so through most of her life. He told police he first had sex with her when she was 3 years old, the police probable cause report says.

“He was vague in his disclosure (about) how often and how many times he had sex with (the child) between three and twelve years of age,” according to the statement from April 18 notes. “His response was that he has always had sex with (her).”

The report goes on. “Nelson stated if given the chance he would have sex with (the child) as often as he has been the last two years.”

The child is now in the care of the Missouri Department of Social Services’ Children’s Division.

When interviewed by a state worker, the police document notes that Stark said she caught Nelson having sex with the child for the first time within the last two months, but also claimed, according to the police report, that she reported the sexual encounter when when the girl was age 3. No such report was found by the state workers to support that claim.

“Paula Stark claimed she did not report the sexual abuse to police because she was scared of her family being broken up,” the report says.

The police report notes that during the police interview, as opposed to her interview with the Children’s Division worker, Stark claimed that she only came to know of the abuse in the last couple of weeks.

“She states that she meant to do something about it, but never did,” the report reads. “She also claimed she had reported the incidents many times, then admitted that she lied about that and had never made a report.”

Nelson and Stark are being held in the Jackson County Detention Center. If convicted Nelson could face life in prison. Stark faces two to seven years on each of her two counts.

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