The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local News

October 11, 2013

Elkhart man found guilty of sexual assault, kidnapping

PALESTINE — Editor’s Note: This story contains some graphic language.

Johnny Paul Sutherlin, 43, of Elkhart, was found guilty of four counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of aggravated kidnapping Thursday afternoon by an Anderson County jury for the 2012 rape of a female victim.

Sutherlin showed little emotion when the verdict was read by presiding District Judge Pam Foster Fletcher at 2:40 p.m. Thursday after jury deliberations of about 29 minutes. The trial began on Tuesday.

Critical to the conviction was Sutherlin’s DNA recovered by then detective Cathy Weber of the Palestine Police Department from the female victim’s hair, District Attorney Doug Lowe reported.

Forensic experts from The University of North Texas and Integrated Forensics Labs testified the DNA source was extracted from a single male’s semen which matched the defendant’s DNA profile.

According to reports, the victim was bound hand and foot, gagged and blind-folded by Sutherlin before he raped her vaginally and anally. Zip ties and construction twine were recovered by authorities from the victim’s bedroom.

Pictures taken the morning after the assault by Jessi Jones, RN, sexual assault nurse examiner showed bright red marks and abrasions around the victim’s wrists and ankles, along with internal injuries.

Texas law allows for a conviction for aggravated kidnapping if the evidence shows that a person is held against their will to aid in a person’s escape from a crime or confining the victim.

Both aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping are first degree felonies, which carry punishment of 5 years to 99 years or life. Because Sutherlin has been to prison twice before, the minimum possible sentence is raised to 25 years on each count.

Sutherlin’s sentencing hearing began immediately after the reading of the verdict Thursday afternoon.

Anderson County Assistant District Attorneys Scott Holden and Elizabeth Watkins presented the case on behalf of the State of Texas. Local attorney Bill House represented Sutherlin.

The identities of sexual assault victims are not disclosed to protect the privacy of victims and avoid painful embarrassment.

Enhanced prosecution of crimes against local women is made possible by a federal grant under the Violence Against Women Act, according to Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe.

Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com

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