News and Tribune

October 9, 2012

Jeffersonville man charged with having sex with girl, 12

Charges include 3 counts of class A felony child molestation, 1 count child solicitation

By GARY POPP
gary.popp@newandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — A Jeffersonville man has been charged in a Clark County court with having sex with a 12-year-old girl.

Bernard Earl Harris, 44, faces four felony charges following his initial hearing Tuesday in Clark Circuit Court No. 4. The charges stem from allegations that he had sexual intercourse, including anal and oral sex, with the girl, who is a relative of Harris. Harris was arrested by Jeffersonville police Oct. 4 at his home at 1121 Whelan Lane, after officers conducted a search warrant of the property. The child’s father filed a report with the Indiana Department of Child Services Sept. 26 in reference to his daughter, now 13.

According to a probable-cause affidavit drafted by a Jeffersonville police officer, the father had discovered on his computer instant messaging between his daughter and Harris that was sexual in nature.

The father noted one message from Harris to the child that was a request to have anal sex the next weekend, according to the affidavit.

Two days later on Sept. 28, the father met with an investigator and brought with him a cell phone that he said was previously in possession of his daughter. The father read to the investigator text messages, which suggested the Bernard and the child had a sexual relationship. The father discovered the text messages on the phone after finding the lewd instant messages on his computer.

The officer attended the girl’s forensic interview Thursday at the Child Advocacy Center in New Albany.

“During the interview, [the victim] disclosed she had a sexual relationship with Bernard Harris,” according to the affidavit.

The child continued that the sexual relationship lasted over the course of a year. The girl explained that she and Harris would take walks to a secluded location and “engage in sexual intercourse and other sexual activities,” according to the affidavit. The child said Harris wore a condom during these interactions and also had shaved her vaginal area.

Harris photographed and video recorded the child while she was nude and during sexual acts, the child told officials. Harris would use a separate memory card for the photographs and videos to conceal his actions, according to the affidavit.

After the forensic interview, the Jeffersonville police escorted the girl to where the sexual acts allegedly occurred.

According to the affidavit, investigators searched the area identified by the girl and located several condom wrappers, two used condoms and a disposable razor.

Harris was charged Tuesday with three counts of class A felony child molestation and one count child solicitation, a class D felony.

Harris’ bond was set at $75,000 cash-only. The full bond must be paid for his release.

Harris’ next scheduled appearance is slated for Dec. 12 in Clark County Circuit Court No. 4. If found guilty of the four felonies, Harris faces a maximum sentence of 153 years in the Indiana Department of Correction.