Former youth pastor found guilty of child sexual assault
Ronald Starkey, 40, was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14 Thursday afternoon and was sentenced to 50 years in prison and assessed a fine of $10,000 by a 12-member Jack County jury.
Following closing arguments Thursday morning, the jury came back in less than two hours finding the former Perrin Baptist youth minister guilty of sexually assaulting his then 3-year-old adoptive daughter in May 2004.
The trial began Tuesday with witness testimony continuing through Wednesday afternoon. The prosecution called 271st District Attorney Investigator Rob Pawley, Oklahoma State Investigator Special Agent Troy Morris, the victim’s mother Kimberly Buckner, Annie Downey and the 17-year-old victim.
The defense called one witness, Starkey’s sister-in-law, Jamie Starkey.
The state’s case showed that Starkey caused the child to perform oral sex. The victim made an outcry to her babysitter, Downey, at or near the time of the assault, but Starkey explained it away.
The Starkey family moved to Altus, Oklahoma, then California. While in California, the couple divorced and Ronald returned to Altus. In June 2015, the victim told her mother what had happened. They were readying to move back to Texas and Buckner told Texas authorities what her daughter had told her.
Because Starkey had moved from Jack County, the case was turned over to the DA’s office. Investigator Pawley traveled to Oklahoma in June 2016 and interviewed him. Pawley then interviewed Starkey a second time along with Special Agent Morris. A video of the second interview was shown during the trial.
Assistant Attorney Jay Lapham said the video shows Starkey admitting his genitals came into contact with the victim’s mouth, but said it was accidental.
He was indicted July 2016.
In closing arguments, David Pearson, attorney for the defense, said the accusation resulted from the actions of a vindictive ex-wife and that Starkey was fed a narrative from the investigators during the interview.
The jury took less than two hours to assess his sentence. When 271st District Court Judge Brock Smith read the verdict, Starkey or no member of his family present showed any signs of emotion. Pearson said Starkey would appeal and a new attorney would be given to him for his appeal. Pearson was ordered to remain his attorney until a new attorney could be provided.
During the sentencing portion, probation officers and members of Starkey’s family said if he was given probation they would help him stick by the rules set forth by the court. Lapham said the punishment phase was the hardest part of the trial and to remember the victim, now 17, when doing the sentencing.
“He gave her a life sentence with what he forced her to do,” Lapham said. “I’m concerned about the future of the girl.”
In his closing arguments, Pearson reminded jurors that they were asked whether they could give fair treatment in punishment.
“The government had the opportunity to bring negative items about Starkey for 12 years,” Pearson said. “We brought credible evidence that he had never been convicted of a felony. The little girl is protected and won’t see her dad again. Give him a way to get treatment and counseling.”
Lapham asked later, “What mercy did he show his daughter ... make Jacksboro be seen where this kind of thing is not tolerated. That message needs to be shown.”